Welcome to L.A.
A real-life fashion portfolio
Note: This Los Angeles notebook contains no movie stars. It has not been picked over by publicists. No person in these pages asked to keep the clothes. And not a single one shown here is a difficult Hollywood type (though some just happen to look like they could play one on TV). Instead, we're featuring architects, hoteliers, writers, and designers who have reclaimed the land from its flip-flop-shod, terry cloth hoodie-wearing, peroxided past (dressed here in Oscar, Brioni, and Valentino). Sure, this new breed still eats McCarthy salads at the Beverly Hills Hotel Fountain Coffee Shop and enjoys tea at the Peninsula. They still go, as Cary Grant did, to Jack Taylor for custom suits. They buy vintage Galanos at Decades and new Yohji at Maxfield's. But they also line up at the Hammer Museum to listen to Malcolm Gladwell and Brian Grazer debate the power of charisma. They order poached squab with hazelnut-potato gnocchi at Patina, right before they dash into Frank Gehry's Disney Concert Hall to hear Esa-Pekka Salonen conduct the L.A. Philharmonic. They live in Richard Neutra houses high in the Hollywood Hills and nod to Tom Ford when they see him sipping a vodka tonic at La Dolce Vita. This is L.A. Now. All grown up, dressed up, and ready to come out and play.
JEFF KLEIN The Hotelier
"L.A. just wasn't an option," says Jeff Klein, proprietor of the City Club hotel in New York and now The Argyle on the Sunset Strip. "The plan was to open another place in New York and one in Paris." But then Klein visited the Argyle hotel, an Art Deco landmark with floor-to-ceiling half-sphere windows that offer sweeping views of Hollywood. After hearing about its history—notable inhabitants have included Errol Flynn, Claudette Colbert, Bugsy Siegel, and John Wayne, who brought a cow—he bought the building and moved to the West Coast to oversee renovations. Klein, a lifelong New Yorker, has joined the ranks of what seems to be a multiplying breed: the L.A. convert. "Now," he says, "this city is the one I call home."
KELLY WEARSTLER The Designer
"I love the sense of discovery in L.A. The film industry makes the whole town hunt for the next new thing," says interior designer Kelly Wearstler, seen here at the JF Chen antiques emporium on Melrose Avenue. Her aesthetic, which has been described as "old-world Hollywood with a modern vibe," has helped free L.A. design from the white-box minimalism that had been so pervasive. Wearstler uses bold color (she chose a lipstick-red motif and painted the walls black at the Beverly Hills boutique hotel Maison 140; the Viceroy in Santa Monica is drenched in emerald green) and mixes the unexpected (visitors to the Viceroy's popular lounge will find it peppered with cameos and Lucite furniture). Wearstler's signatures will soon be seen in private residences in Malibu and Beverly Hills. And in a bid to bring some L.A. fantasy to the rest of the country, she is introducing her own line of fabrics, wall coverings, and rugs, as well as designing a restaurant and bar at New York's Bergdorf Goodman.
ART LUNA The Gardener
As the city's reigning highlight king, Art Luna has long been in the business of enhancing what nature had intended. So it seems fitting that his clients (Jamie Tisch and Lisa Eisner, to name two), who were accustomed to having their hair done in the splendor of his salon's garden, started hiring Luna to tame their unkempt hedges at home. Now having your garden designed by Art Luna is as much of a status marker as being a Luna blonde. "Structure first, flowers second" is his philosophy, which in practice grows into gardens characterized by "rooms" and secret pathways. "Working with gardens is not that different from dealing with hair," he says, "though I must admit it's humbling to see what Mother Nature can do without any help."
Is L.A. the sushi capital of America?
You see it all over the city: In midsentence, deep in negotiations, Angelenos will stop just long enough to cast an appraising eye over the plate of precisely sliced fish set before them. Sushi suits L.A. There's something about it that mirrors the informal way we live. In the morning we head out with little more than a baseball cap, appointment book, and cell phone. Great sushi requires an obsessive pursuit of quality, yet the meal is consumed amid the most casual of sounds—fresh wasabi root being grated and skilled hands clapping rice into form. Ours is a paradoxical ideal of luxury, which may explain why this Japanese tradition has reached its American zenith here.
Right now, Koi is the hottest sushi spot, as indicated by the number of valet parkers outside: A squad of black-clad commandos buzz around the entrance, extracting diners from kid-leather car interiors. Beyond heavy wooden doors is a series of rooms with roaring fireplaces and oxblood walls adorned with votive candles. The halls are crowded with celebrities and BlackBerry-punching film-industry types conversing at high decibels. Without exception, all fall into a reverie at the arrival of each dish—the connoisseur's pause.
But a great number of other restaurants—perhaps less of-the-moment, perhaps more modest—have a similar effect. At Nishimura, in a starkly beautiful West Hollywood cottage, Hiro Nishimura constructs powerfully pure dishes; at Urasawa in Beverly Hills, Hiroyuki Urasawa individually crafts magnificent meals for each customer. Three chefs share center stage at Wa Sushi and Bistro, where the most exquisite piece of salmon comes L.A.-style—with nothing more than salt and lemon juice, and the brief sound of silence.
Koi, 730 N. La Cienega Blvd., West Hollywood; 310-659-9449. Nishimura, 8684 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood; 310-659-4770. Urasawa, 218 N. Rodeo Dr., Beverly Hills; 310-247-8939. Wa Sushi and Bistro, 1106 N. La Cienega Blvd., Ste. 201, West Hollywood; 310-854-7285.
THE PLACE FOR VINTAGE COUTURE
How do you pull off this Norman Norrell mermaid gown with Russian sable trim? "Wear it," says Cameron Silver, owner of the well-edited gallerylike store Decades and a devoted fan of the Hollywood classic (see his paean to Jack Taylor, below), "for a party at home, paired with ballet flats, minimal jewelry, and a very big personality."
Dress, $6,000. Decades, 8214 1/2 Melrose Ave.; 323-655-0223.
JACK TAYLOR The Suitmaker
I was once saving up for a weekend house. Then I met Jack Taylor and began diverting all my funds into a closetful of bespoke suits. The jackets are square-shouldered and fitted at the waist. The pants are handsewn with a permanent crease down the front. Taylor hasn't changed the silhouette of his suit since opening his Beverly Hills haberdashery in 1957. In the early days, Cary Grant and Frank Sinatra were regulars. Now it's James Spader and David Arquette (and a Laker or two), although you might still catch Art Linkletter coming in for a fitting. Taylor hasn't sewn a single stitch in his 86 years. He is the original star stylist, orchestrating a team of tailors who concoct gentlemen's couture using only the finest Holland & Sherry cashmere and Harris tweed.
Taylor starts his day at 7 a.m. by calling clients, tempting them with new suits (there's a pinstriped one that, upon close inspection, has the client's name custom-woven in the stripes). Whether you want velvet blazers or cashmere denim, believe me, it's easy to fall under the spell.
—Cameron Silver Owner of Decades
Suits, from $2,950. Jack Taylor, 188 N. Cañon Dr.; 310-274-7276.
IF THESE WALLS COULD TALK...
For anyone who has ever stayed at the Beverly Hills Hotel, the banana-leaf pattern seen here is unmistakable. First introduced in 1949 by hotel architect Paul Williams, the printed wallpaper officially known as Martinique can be ordered through the Jeffrey Stevens showroom in the Pacific Design Center. "I receive requests every single week," says owner Steven Abrams. "Most people use it in a sunroom, but one woman bought one hundred fifty rolls to outfit her entire house."
$134 per roll, 310-652-3050.
The grandest house in Beverly Hills
High in Benedict Canyon, up the road from Pickfair, sits Dawnridge, the fantastical home built by designer Tony Duquette and his wife, Beegle, on the first of many lots they bought in 1949, in a wild ravine in Beverly Hills.
I spent a month living alone at Dawnridge while researching a book I'm writing on Duquette (co-written by Hutton Wilkinson), a man who decorated homes for J. Paul Getty and the Duchess of Windsor and created theatrical costumes for Camelot, The Magic Flute, and Kismet. To stay there is as close as you get to feeling like Alice when she fell down the rabbit hole. Every surface has been intricately layered with precious and found objects, the pairing of which was Tony's specialty. The guest room features a bed hung with Thai silk left over from the costumes Tony made for the original Broadway production of Camelot.
The drawing room was recently redone—using Duquette originals—by Hutton, Tony's longtime business partner, and makes its première in these pages. There are three walls upholstered in gold lamé and gilded-seashell panels, originally made for a debutante ball, and "ironic" columns were built from spray-painted air filters. Costumed 3-D figures that Tony did for Der Rosenkavalier sit at opposite ends. The Murano glass chandelier he designed as the room's centerpiece hangs from the ceiling with its plaster sunburst, doves, and flower garlands.
Back in the day, Hollywood royalty (Mary Pickford, Marion Davies, Vincente Minnelli) roamed these halls. Marlon Brando rented Dawnridge in the fifties and loved to sprawl on the floor beneath the chandelier. As the house is now the headquarters for Tony Duquette Inc., the jewelry and interior design business Tony founded in 1941 and Hutton now runs, it is off-limits to visitors. But imagine the wild fancy of this room infused into the making of a watermelon-tourmaline necklace and you've found your own private path into the one-of-a-kind world of Tony Duquette.
LAUREN WEISBERGER The Writer
"They came to Hollywood in search of a dream." Ah yes, but that tired just-off-the-Greyhound plotline is being recast. Witness Lauren Weisberger, author of the best-selling Devil Wears Prada (Fox 2000 optioned the movie rights the very second the 100-page sample hit the market), who arrived to write her second novel. "I knew I'd be at my desk most of time and thought that breaks on the beach in Santa Monica sounded nice," says Weisberger, whose new work centers on a fictional party/ event planner caught up in New York's nightlife. As for the Los Angeles social scene, Weisberger says her schedule revolves more around backyard barbecues than it does the velvet rope, though she admits to enjoying her star turn here: "A group taking the studio tour was desperate to know who the girl in the Oscar dress was."
JAMIE NORDEN The Architect
"If you're a young architect," says Jamie Norden, "Los Angeles is the place to experiment. It's always just ahead of the curve." The 30-year-old relocated from London five years ago in search of "adventure." Today he heads Ground Up, a four-person collective known as much for its residential work as for its experimental site-specific art installations (the most notable being the "Electric Bamboo" garden the firm created at the former West Hollywood home of famed architect R. M. Schindler). Norden himself seems entirely at ease when surrounded by the work of the L.A. visionaries who have preceded him, as he was when this photo was taken: The setting is Patina, the restaurant nestled in the gleaming stainless-steel panels of Frank Gehry's Disney Concert Hall. "This great space is the center of L.A. now," he says. "We have evolved."
MAXFIELD'S The Seat of Style
Besides being the first store to bring Yohji Yamamoto and Giorgio Armani to Los Angeles, Maxfield's also has the largest selection of vintage Hermès bags and watches anywhere. It remains the city's style pioneer, with a current lineup including edgier classics such as Rochas, Dries Van Noten, and Balenciaga along with maverick designers like Carpe Diem and D-Squared. On tables between clothing racks you'll discover out-of-print art and photography books and perfect martini shakers and cocktail sets. The store entrance is easy to miss; catch a glimpse of the mammoth monkey statues crouched by the parking lot and you'll know you have arrived. At 8825 Melrose Ave.; 310-274-8800.
L.A. FASHION MAP
FRED SEGAL's kids' section has excellent quirky T-shirts (323-651-3698). OK is a favorite for colored glassware (323-653-3501). RONNIE GOUSMAN binds scripts for screenwriters. For us, he creates handmade albums and journals (from $200; 323-651-2900). TRACEY ROSS is the queen of well-edited L.A. retail. Her store stocks Marc Jacobs, Stella McCartney, and her own line (310-854-1996). KAVIAR & KIND is a cooler-than-thou showcase for jewelry/accessory designers on the rise (by appointment, 310-659-8858). ALPHA carries modern-man survival-gear custom "baskets" in alligator suitcases, barbecue grills (baskets from $500; 310-855-0775). CREATIVE INTELLIGENCE is behind those invitations to just about every party you'd RSVP to (323-936-9009). ERIC BUTERBAUGH's flowers arrive in silk-wrapped vases (from $150; 310-247-7120).
CASEY WASSERMAN + JAMES PERSE The Native Sons
Casey's grandfather was legendary Hollywood power player Lew Wasserman, who is credited, among other things, with ending the studio contract system and getting Bette Davis a recordbreaking $130,000 paycheck for All About Eve. James's father is retail guru Tommy Perse, founder of Maxfield's and now also owner of L.A.-based rock-and-roll leather and jewelry line Chrome Hearts. From that golden ground up, they've built empires of their own. At 24 Wasserman bought the Los Angeles Avengers, becoming the youngest person ever to own a professional sports team. Now he is CEO of Wasserman Media Group, which includes a talent-management company and a music division. James is the man to thank for the $70 T-shirt trend. The eponymous designer has built his line of cotton basics into a $20 million business and he just announced plans to open stores in New York and Miami.
DEE DEE GORDON + SHARON LEE Cool Arbiters
Look-Look, an L.A.-based company, tracks trends in youth culture. Translation? It finds out what's cool and charges clients (Calvin Klein, Nike, Coke) oh, around $25,000 for the favor. The firm's latest venture is a magazine featuring the work of emerging under-30 artists (we've already spotted talents like Louie Eisner and Gia Coppola). Cofounder Dee Dee Gordon turned off her radar long enough to list her L.A. commandments: BUY collectible Japanese toys at Span of Sunset. ORDER spaghetti and meatballs at Dominick's on Beverly Boulevard. WATCH old movies screened at Hollywood Forever cemetery. WORK OUT at Harmony Studios on Santa Monica Boulevard; take a private Pilates class with owner Karen Schwabe Jones. BOOK a facial with Mihaela at Belladonna on South Robertson. SHOP at Fred Segal's Free City Boutique for Nina Garduno designs and Arcana in Santa Monica for art books. BROWSE the galleries at China Art Objects and Earl McGrath.
This West Third Street men's store stocks books (like William Eggleston's 21Ž4, shown here) as well as wares by local and European designers. There are plaid hats from the very traditional Barbour and colorful print shirts from Italian designers Coast and Two Flowers. At 8317 W. Third St.; 323-651-5445.