Insight – Moss, Los Angeles, US


In retail, you expect a second store to be pretty much like the first, trading on the language of the original to reinforce the brand. But in the case of Murray Moss’s Los Angeles venture, an act of cloning most certainly has not taken place.

His New York Store, Moss, which launched in 1994, is the product of its savvy SoHo surroundings. It feels like a loft; it assumes a certain knowledge on the part of its customers. Or even a lot. ‘In fact, I think we’re becoming very presumptuous there. New Yorkers have a real understanding of this arena,’ says Moss – the arena being high-end design.

While Moss has taken many of the same products to LA – he opened the store with a show called Glitter and Smoke, which featured chandeliers from the Swarovksi Crystal Palace collection and a 1938 Steinway baby grand piano which had been fire-sculpted by Maarten Baas – he has set about selling them in a rather different way. And with some success: the piano sold on day two for a cool $155 000 (£78 000). ‘I felt smart that day,’ laughs Moss.

First, Moss decided to position himself in the fashion market on Melrose Avenue as a way of communicating the creativity of his largely studio, not production, stock. This, after all, is Design rather than Furniture. LA is highly zoned, right down to which of side of the street you are on, so he struck lucky with APC next door, a fabulous Helmut Lang store around the corner and Paul Smith’s huge pink cube across the street. Alexander McQueen is about to open down the road and it is rumoured that Chanel will be putting in an appearance too.

Then Moss decided to introduce a major dose of Californian friendliness. A huge sign reading ‘Hi’ hangs emphatically over the Corian counter at the back of the shop, drawing customers towards it. The staff wear suits, as in New York, but here the welcome has a generosity of spirit that would not wear in Manhattan.

There is further generosity in panels that introduce the designers, with headshots and biographies (‘Who’s Who at Moss’). ‘We had to show people that these are real, living, interesting people,’ says Moss.

The shop itself, while maintaining a neutrality necessary to background the expressive work within, has a strong sense of location and context. It is a single-storey 1930s building and Moss rediscovered its curved interior walls when he demolished all the interior interventions. He has re-stuccoed its front and revived the planters, which will be filled with grape ivy. In March, he had the shop logo moved forward so the ivy can grow behind it. The original concrete floor has been sandblasted, its patchiness showing the history of the building, and a 20m steel beam was installed from the front to the back of the space (following the original downward slope toward the back) to shore up the roof and from which to suspend a wall-to-wall ceiling grid. ‘You could hang a car from it,’ chuckles Moss, who has so far managed to prove the point with 18 chandeliers.

The back has been blown out and a huge garage door installed. ‘We can use the gallery as a parking lot,’ says Moss. ‘This is California and we should be showing motorbikes and cars. We showed Ducatis once in New York, but it becomes clever there. Here it’s natural.’

And glass cabinets with white enamelled frames – containing Moss favourites such as Baccarat crystal, Lobmeyer glassware and Studio Job’s white Makken porcelain – are suspended from the grid to create smaller gallery spaces.

A long way from New York in every sense, then, Moss’s LA store looks bound to repeat its East Coast sibling’s extraordinary success.

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