LOS ANGELES — Melrose Avenue’s fortunes have risen and fallen over the years. As the latest makeover of Melrose picks up speed, some designers and brands are choosing it over fashionista favorites such as Robertson Boulevard and Sunset Plaza.
At the Dita Legends store, at the end of a cul-de-sac in the Daikanyama district of Tokyo, a dreamy-lit wall displaying sunglasses by the eyewear brand also shows a selection of liquor bottles — in case customers get thirsty while they shop.
The rules are a bit different when it comes to serving cocktails in Los Angeles. But there’s still the loungy, sexy feel of a lusciously designed nightclub in the new Dita shop at 7625 Melrose Avenue, which opened last weekend. It’s the company’s first in the U.S. and solely owned (the other is co-owned with the brand’s Japanese distributor).
Not surprisingly, Dita owners John Juniper and Jeff Solorio called on friend Mandi Rafaty, whose design firm, Tag Front, is behind the lavish environments at Hollywood hot spots Geisha House, Boa, Palador, Nacional and Ivar. The trio, now based in Los Angeles, go back to younger years growing up in Orange County, where Dita was founded in 1996.
The build out was undertaken by Alumina, a firm that specializes in theatrical sets, but is now moving into retail. It also happens to own the building.
“We wanted something warm, stylish,” Juniper said of the 1,000-square-foot showcase that includes Dita’s leather bags and wallets previously sold only in Japan. “We made an effort with this space because it should set an example for other stores that carry the product. We don’t advertise in the big magazines. So this is a good, one-stop way for people to get introduced to Dita as a brand.”
Among the more arresting architectural details is a wall made of stacked beams of rich walnut and a smooth check-out counter made from a block of poured concrete. Some walls are covered in textured fabric, and displays comprise aluminum and suede. The floors are hot-rolled steel, which gives them a distressed finish.
Clear acrylic boxes and shelves display more than just Dita eyewear and accessories; there is also Cazal eyewear, vintage Carreras sunglasses, Wild Jewels New Zealand paua necklaces and Hysteric Glamour women’s and kids’ clothes.
“We just wanted to carry things we want for ourselves,” Juniper said. “But we want this to be a place where customers come and find their favorite things.”
— Rose Apodaca
Tarina Tarantino is known for never skimping on her whimsical jewelry, belt buckles or hair accessories, be it in the generous use of Swarovski crystals, German Lucite beads or hand-painted Japanese pearls threading through her collections.
So when it came to creating a sign for her first stand-alone boutique, the hot pink-tressed designer wasn’t about to settle by seeing her name in lights. Instead, she spelled it out above the front door in 10,000 jet black Swarovski crystals.
“Don’t you love how it sparkles?” remarked company president and chief executive officer Alfonso Campos, who is Tarantino’s husband.
The new door comes as the Los Angeles-based company marks its 10th anniversary. A shop-in-shop opened in the Galleria Passarella in Milan in 2003. But this door at 7957 Melrose Avenue is a blueprint for three doors in Tokyo that are to open in the next two years.
The sparkle just begins with the sign. The pink, poured-resin floor glitters, and lines of crystals twinkle from the edges of everything from the drawer knobs (porcelain cameos of Tarantino’s logo) to the speakers embedded in the walls.
“We were careful not to overdo it,” insisted Campos. “We didn’t want it to look like Liberace lives here.”
Indeed, what doesn’t sparkle “floats.” Bracelets and earrings dangle from clear Plexiglas bars. The clear and walnut cash-and-wrap table is suspended on a bulbous, teardrop-shaped resin leg.
“We visited a lot of jewelry stores and we hated how everything was under glass,” Campos said. “We wanted displays that were accessible, interactive.”
Two vanity areas allow customers to take a seat at a pink suede, curved-back chair, place findings on a tray that pulls out from the wall and play dress-up in front of one of the back-lit oval mirrors that punctuate the space.
There is also a Plexiglas partition wall with dozens of square cutouts. In each is a clear box that can be pulled out to sample the belts or brooches within. Several oversized glass apothecary jars are filled with colorful, striped and swirled beads and crystals.
“We wanted this sense of discovery and play for the place,” Tarantino said. “It’s like a candy store.”
To wit, there are lollipops bearing her image, as well as that of Pink Head, the Hello Kitty in a pink flip ‘do that the designer does in collaboration with Sanrio. Pink Head, bridal, pet, Bambino and her limited-edition Hand Made lines are all available here.
Antik Denim transcends borders with its Western-inspired line for city slickers who won’t hesitate to shell out $300 for a pair of jeans. And in decorating their new Melrose Avenue store, set to open this weekend, co-designers Alex Caugant and Philippe Naouri also mixed cultures.
Concrete covers the entire floor of the 3,700-square-foot shop, and strands of tan rope climb up the two pillars supporting the exposed ceiling. Along the side walls, live ferns and bamboo sprout from soil poured into what resembles log cabins with their layers of wood and rope. Water trickles down the back wall-cum-stone fountain that is decorated with a pebble mosaic of an eagle clasping arrows and wheat stalks in its talons.
Hip-hop music videos and tech-centric movies such as “The Matrix” are shown on five flat-panel television screens.
“We wanted to mix the old with the new, the natural with the modern,” Naouri said.
What drew them to the current site on 8013 Melrose Avenue was the glass facade that stretched 25 feet from floor to ceiling. Sharing the block with neighbors such as Adidas, Miu Miu and Costume National was also a plus, Naouri said.
Underscoring their commitment to authenticity, Naouri and Caugant flew to Nacogdoches, Tex., west of the Louisiana border, to select an oak tree that became the source of all the wood fixtures made by furniture maker Prosper Pariente.
Antik, which is owned by Blue Holdings Inc. in Commerce, Calif., plans to open stores in Tokyo and New York by year’s end, Caugant said. While the Tokyo store will be smaller than the Los Angeles flagship, the look will be consistent, said Kei Morita, who works for Antik’s Japanese distributor, Fujikou Co. Morita said the Tokyo boutique will be near the Ralph Lauren shop in the trendy Harajuku neighborhood.
Naouri and Caugant threw an opening party for the shop last Thursday, drawing fellow denim designers such as Ed Hardy’s Christian Audigier, whose own store is a few blocks east on Melrose, and Oligo Tissew’s Christopher Enuke.
— Khanh T.L. Tran