WHETHER THEY’RE ON CAMERA OR POISED ON A “CATWALK,” SHOES ARE THE STARS AT H.
Byline: Josh Greene
Everything from hard-core minimalism to feng shui to a fashion catwalk went into the design of H, a high-end women’s and men’s shoe store that opened this past March in the heavily trafficked Sunset Plaza block of Sunset Boulevard.
Shoppers enter the 1,200-square-foot store through two large glass doors that are part of an all-glass facade. Two brass letter Hs, each bearing a single shoe — a women’s style on the left H, a man’s on the right — are the sole occupants of the stringently minimalist store windows.
This theme continues once you’re in the store, where women’s shoes are displayed at the left and the men’s on the right, lined up on two parallel, rectangular platforms.
The platforms divide the store into three “runways,” with the center runway serving as the store’s main thoroughfare. Pull-down seats with red vinyl cushions, inspired by seats in a European metro, are built into the sleek black platforms. Though a 1-foot mirror lines the bottom of the central walkway, customers may take a more high-tech approach to perusing a possible purchase: two ankle-level Epson cameras can instantly project a 9-foot-6-inch blowup of the wearer’s tootsies on the opposite wall. For the head-to-toe view, floor-to-ceiling mirrors are stationed at the back of the store.
The shoe displays feature black korian sides and a white korian top that sits 3.5 feet high, where shoes are designer-grouped with custom-made signs created from engraved Lucite. Below, inventory can be stored in hanging racks outfitted with fabric bags and organized by season. There are no shoeboxes and no stockrooms.
While H prides itself on innovation, the store also looks to the past for inspiration, in the form of feng shui, the centuries-old Chinese practice of arranging one’s surroundings to achieve peace, balance and prosperity. In keeping with feng shui principles, the west wall is painted green with a brown border to symbolize trees and earth, while a shallow pool of water runs atop the entire men’s shoe display. Just above the water are four rectangular Lucite cubes tinted red, yellow, green and blue. Shoes placed inside the cubes look as if they float on water. These primary colors are repeated on the ceiling through recessed lighting above the center aisle and behind the mirrors on the back wall.
On his first American project, Italian architect Oliviero Baldini worked alongside Fabio Bosi in Italy to have everything built abroad, then shipped to Los Angeles in 14 crates. Baldini’s previous retail experience includes Y’s Yohji Yamamoto outside Milan.
Overall, H uses minimal decor that is forward thinking in design, but that doesn’t upstage the shoes. “We wanted to bring new [shoe] designers to Los Angeles,” said H’s owner, Lorenzo Hadar, who prefers to be known simply as Lorenzo. “The designers may be known around the world, but not necessarily to Los Angeles.” Some of the better known labels include Roberto Cavalli, Helmut Lang, Stephane Kelian and Marc Jacobs, while less known names like Angelo Figus, Rene Caovill and Giuseppe Glisquali are being introduced.
While H is Lorenzo’s newest store, he also owns two other boutiques on the block: H. Lorenzo and Plein Sud. Expansion of Plein Sud and the remodeling of both locations to create separate men’s and women’s stores are planned. “We are moving to the future, but remembering the past,” said Hadar.