For seven years, a unique concept of a store made to look like a ’90s-era studio apartment in Queens, New York, sold men’s streetwear out of a small space on Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles.
Over the years, the avenue known for Canter’s Deli and the CBS Television Studio, became home to a host of streetwear outposts that not only included Apt. 4B, but Supreme, Huf, Aape and 4:30.
But when demonstrators in 2020 marched through the streets of Los Angeles protesting the murder of George Floyd, rioting ensued and several stores up and down Fairfax Avenue were hit hard with windows smashed and merchandise stolen.
There are photos of Apt. 4B owners Moon and Monique Moronta standing in front of their business with boarded-up windows. With the COVID-19 pandemic getting worse and crime rising, the Apt. 4B owners started thinking it might be a good time to find another location.
It took them two years to make the transition, but on Saturday they will be opening an expanded version of their Apt. 4B in Row DTLA, a hip mixed-use development in an area of downtown Los Angeles where the Fashion District, the Arts District and Skid Row converge.
“When it was time to move, downtown Los Angeles was the obvious choice,” said Moon, standing next to an old refrigerator covered with graffiti, which is part of the apartment-like look transferred to the new store. Against one wall is a 1980s wood China cabinet and against another wall is a well-worn beige pleather couch near a gawdy polyester leopard-print rug. “I love this specific area of downtown because I am from Queens, and this is very Williamsburg [Brooklyn] with the warehouses being converted.”
The Row DTLA looks like someone cut out a section of SoHo in New York and airlifted it into Los Angeles, California. The 32-acre commercial area, which comprises eight warehouses, used to be a produce market and railroad terminus built between 1917 and 1923. Because of the streets in between the old warehouses, the complex feels more like a small city within a big city.
In recent years, the offices at the Row DTLA have become home to many fashion companies, including Seven For All Mankind and Splendid. Recently the online clothing retailer Revolve leased a big chunk of office space, and Shein has a presence.
But retail is a major component on the street-level spaces that house two dozen stores, including Shades of Grey by Micah Cohen, Johnny Cota and Banks Journal.
The new Apt. 4B venue is a little more than twice as big as the 600-square-foot outpost on Fairfax Avenue. “This is a lot bigger, nicer and cleaner,” Monique said. “I feel this has more of a New York vibe.”
The added space leaves room for the Morontas to sell their Apt. 4B brand of streetwear made in Los Angeles and have a vintage streetwear clothing section organized and run by friends Crystal Robles and Ricky Li of Tried and True Co., which specializes in vintage clothing from the ’80s and ’90s.
Robles and Li are operating the vintage section as their own store-within-a-store, which is reached by passing through a small bedroom into the area made to look like a closet.
In keeping with the ’90s aura of Apt. 4B, music from that era, including tunes from Wu-Tang Clan, Mobb Deep and Brooklyn rapper Nas, will be heard on the speakers and videos, including Bruce Lee movies, will play on an old television. “We wanted to bring people into the feel of the room, you know, instead of explaining our design and our ethos,” said Moon, who said his company is also doing a collaboration with Adidas this December where Apt. 4B designed the coloring and materials for 150 pairs of Adidas Forum Lows.
Across the street from Apt. 4B is another new store opening on Saturday. Arcade, owned by vintage clothing expert Richard Wainwright, is a cooperative that sells clothing, jewelry, accessories and home goods sourced from resellers and public consignors.
“This felt like a natural fit for us,” Wainwright said, standing inside the 2,800-square-foot emporium.
Wainwright’s first Arcade store opened in 2018 in Industry City, Brooklyn, New York, which is a former manufacturing and distribution hub that has a warehouse environment similar to the Row DTLA.
Arcade’s new store complements A Current Affair, the vintage clothing fairs Wainwright began organizing 12 years ago that showcased 200 vintage retailers and dealers. The events were held at the Cooper Design Space in downtown Los Angeles and at Industry City in Brooklyn, but they have been on hold for three years because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The vintage fair is starting up again in Los Angeles this December.
When A Current Affair was idled, Wainwright started an outdoor fair called the Pickwick Vintage Show. For the last year, it has been held once a month at the Row DTLA. “It has been fun. After that, we kind of tossed around the idea of doing retail here. Then we were looking at spaces, and this one was available,” Wainwright said. “And you know what? I just said, ‘Let’s do it.’”