JC Report: How would you describe the concept behind “thematic moments” like World Fringe?
T-RIK: We’re trying to approach retail from the perspective of a fashion editor. They identify a trend, like “It’s all about green,” and you have three different pages of green Marc Jacobs purses and all these other products that tap into the trend. The problem is that if you’re a consumer who wants to find these pieces, you have to search all over the place. Just like an editor, we’re identifying and exploring different movements in fashion, but we’re also providing a one-stop shop for the consumer to find them. Each moment is temporary, and the emphasis is on the consumer to act now—it’s now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t shopping.
JCR: Some people might compare this to a pop-up shop, but I hear you don’t like to use that phrase.
T-RIK: We used the term “pop-up” in the beginning because it’s familiar, and it helped people understand that we’re presenting temporary opportunities to buy. But it really doesn’t fit what we’re doing—we’re a permanent retail boutique, but we operate with the same business model and calendar as a gallery. We provide special editions, installments and moments with an emphasis on appreciation and sharing.
JCR: You also compare your buying process to curation—where did you find all the elements of the final World Fringe collection?
T-RIK: In some cases, we tapped brands who were already working in ethnic silhouettes or textiles, but we also challenged some designers to produce pieces especially for us. For example, Corinne Grassini of Society for Rational Dress was already leaning towards the ethnic mood for her spring collection, but she reformulated a few pieces just for us in overtly ethnic fabrics and exaggerated silhouettes.
We also spent time traveling around the world and sourcing traditional pieces that translate into the ethnic zeitgeist that’s emerging in fashion today. We found things like sandals from the northern hill tribes of Thailand, all hand-produced by villagers—Miho [Ikeda, the shop's co-founder] has been selling these all over town just by wearing them.
JCR: What are a few of the most surprising submissions?
T-RIK: The biggest surprise was the Peggy Noland knitwear, because until the box arrived the day before, we had no idea what she was going to send—it was like Christmas morning, and Santa definitely delivered. David Toro and Solomon Chase collaborated to make bindis especially for us—happy faces, plaid patterns and ones made out of braided hair. You can see they worked forever on these tiny details. Brian Lichtenberg‘s also created his first home line, with pillows made out of African mudcloth. We literally had submissions arriving on the day of the launch from all over the world—it’s been such a great response.
JCR: You’ve also launched an in-house clothing line, Nehima—why did you choose this moment to unveil it?
T-RIK: It was definitely in our blood, but Nehima is a direct response to how inspired we were by the curating process. We knew there were things we wanted but didn’t see out there, so it was all about filling the holes. We used ethnic-printed fabrics from the early ’90s to create separates for men and women, everything from bike shorts to bloomers. Every piece is a one-off, since it’s made from fabric that we couldn’t produce again and again—we searched everywhere from the darkest corner of a fabric store on the darkest street to taking pieces from Goodwill, deconstructing them and using the fabric. Our biggest regret is that we didn’t have time to document everything and it was really sad to see the pieces go. The best thing we could do was take a picture with our phone as people took them home.
JCR: Why do you feel the time is right for this concept?
T-RIK: The existing retail model has become really stale and we just wanted to do something different. LA has a bad rep when it comes to fashion—I’ve worked as a stylist and brand consultant for years, and it was always the done thing to complain about LA Fashion Week, the shopping and everything else. But there came a point where Miho and I decided to stop bitching and do something to change it.
A lot of it also grew from our view of wholesaling and how counterproductive it can be. You have a designer with a substantial output, yet they’re forced to edit it down to a really small collection for market. Stores then buy it piecemeal, then it’s cross-merchandised with other designers who may not even be appropriate, so you end up with this predicament where the consumer only sees a tiny fraction of the designer’s vision as interpreted by a buyer. As a consumer, you never get to see the things designers do for editorial and celebrities and their own little thrills at home. We’d go to studios and see amazing pieces people would be so excited to see, but they’re just sitting in a closet. We figured even if we can’t sell these things, there are people with an appreciation for them and we felt we could make the connection.
JCR: I’m sure you have designers clamoring to be included in your next retail moment. What advice would you give them?
T-RIK: We look for daring vision and creative depth, combined with a sense of humor. We like to work with designers who don’t take this too seriously and who are friendly and nice. I’ve learned that the more creative and genuinely talented people are, the more humble they are. The people we work with aren’t just talented, they’re friends for life.
This interview was conducted by Erin Magner.