When Rei Kawakubo opened the first Comme des Garçons guerilla store in 2004, she paved the way for a nascent retail trend that has since become an all but ubiquitous fashion staple: the pop-up shop. Housed in gritty, un-gentrified neighborhoods, the stores sold “seasonless” merchandise from past and current collections. These raw, quasi-gallery-like spaces functioned as foils to the flashy, high-profile “concept stores” dotting many of the more heavily trafficked global commercial strips, emphasizing product over property. Smithshop + Stor @ Khastoo, a temporary retail installation currently in Los Angeles, epitomizes how this retail novelty has matured. Housed in a small gallery far from the go-to designer thoroughfares of Roberston Boulevard and Melrose Avenue, Quentin Smith and gallerist Leila Khastoo have successfully fused a new blend of art and commerce.
Presented in conjunction with the exhibition “Give the People What They Want,” the Smithshop + Stor @ Khastoo installation features Smith’s collection of handcrafted interior objects, Smithshop, along with an assortment of vintage and contemporary pieces culled from his online retail project, Stor. Gallery-goers have their choice of gold (’70s era Sacha Brostoff pendant necklaces, a recent-season Véronique Branquinho skirt) or black (Dries van Noten pants, Smithshop’s ‘non-folding’ chair) in addition to more colorful offerings from Khastoo artists Greg Parma Smith, James Hyde and Rob Reynolds.
“The decision to partner with Khastoo really had to do with collaborative vision, psychological space and the merging of concepts,” Smith explained, adding that similar endeavors could be conceivably undertaken in any city or location, for any duration of time. In fact, Smith would ultimately like to embark upon a similar venture in New York, citing the ways in which progressive outposts like the Gagosian Gallery Store have already begun blurring traditional lines. “It’s kind of like that old Warhol maxim, ‘good business is the best art,’” he says. “You’re re-thinking this idea of the white cube.”
Despite the recent spate of contemporary art and fashion collaborations (Calvin Klein and Jean Shin for L.A. Arts, Robert Knoke at Seven New York) Smith is reluctant to define his latest outing as trend-driven. Each piece, he emphasizes, was chosen very deliberately in order to complement and enhance its setting. “There’s a fine line to be considered,” he explains. “We’re curating retail to exist alongside art without compromising the integrity of either side.” A lofty ambition perhaps, but one at which Smith and Khastoo have clearly succeeded.