Finding Cool at Just One Eye

James T. Murray

How the L.A. shop became an American mecca for fashion, art and design.

In the increasingly risk-averse climate of buying and selling clothes, opening a boutique on a forlorn Holly­wood block and filling it with the work of young designers might seem rash—the fashion equivalent of, say, wing walking or tow-in surfing.

But Paola Russo, who has courage to match the abundance of her curls and the thickness of her French accent, imagined Just One Eye as an antidote to the slavish styles purveyed in nearby Beverly Hills. Her boutique was instantly heralded for its art-fashion collaborations: crocodile backpacks embellished by Damien Hirst and as many pairs of Converse All-Stars as the painter Nate Lowman could create by cutting one of his canvases into little pieces. (Though the sneakers cost $25,000 a pair, a less heady replica sells for $110 on Just One Eye’s website.)

Yet it’s the clothing—a mix of new names like Aurelie Demel, straight from fashion school in Paris; young stars Bouchra Jarrar, Yiqing Yin and J.W. Anderson; and venerable houses such as Valentino—that has made Just One Eye a lodestar for those with the resources to fuel their sartorial fixations. If the merch looks especially fresh, it’s because Russo prides herself on buying the pieces that other stores wouldn’t dare.

Housed in a Deco building that once served as Howard Hughes’s Hollywood headquarters, the boutique is divided into a series of rooms off a long corridor. There is furniture for sale, from century-old Carlo Bugatti chairs to Blackman Cruz’s orange lambskin beanbags. Vitrines blaze with diamond jewelry or offer the quiet frisson of Kiki de Montparnasse’s “restraining arts” (read: bondage) kit. Fashion insiders who wept when G. Lorenzi, the cult Milanese stockist of clubby men’s accessories, shuttered its store this spring will thrill to find pieces here. On nearly every wall, major art looms: Cecily Brown, Takashi Murakami and other trophy pelts. These are not for sale; they belong to Russo’s silent partners and are here, she says, “to help people to dream.”

This fall, Just One Eye will dedicate a room to the jewelry of Wilfredo Rosado, the New York designer of cheeky cameos and opulent, disco-ready baubles. “There is a strong feeling of newness here, which I found hard to resist,” Rosado explains.

Just One Eye’s next collaboration is something Russo calls a survival kit, the idea for which she swears preceded L.A.’s recent cluster of earthquakes. “Some friends who are ex–military experts and I came up with the idea of a kit with the best version of everything essential: the ultimate flashlight, a phone with solar panels.”

Lest it seem lacking in extravagance, the kit will also include the perfect cashmere blanket for chilly apocalypses. After all, Russo is in the business not of enabling survival, but of perfecting it.

Just One Eye is located at 7000 Romaine St.; justoneeye.com.