BLDWN and Montalba Architects Celebrate American Design in Los Angeles
Fortuitous is the project where the client’s vision and the designer’s interpretation are inextricably woven in service of the brand. Or, in this instance, rebranding. Such is the case with BLDWN, the clothing label with a new flagship on tony Melrose Place in Los Angeles. For all of its up-to-the-minute casual fashion, mostly women’s, BLDWN, it turns out, has deep Midwest America roots. It was founded 10 years ago in Kansas City as a men’s denim line. Over the years, it evolved to a 50/50 men’s and women’s ready-to-wear line, and Jonathan Crocker, who took over as president in 2018 and just recently left the company, wanted to move it forward still.
First, he relocated the headquarters, design, and production to fashion-centric L.A. Then he determined a flagship showplace proclaiming BLDWN as a modern American brand needed to make a visible mark in the city. The operative word? American. “I wanted to identify an American architect who had favorable fashion retail experiences,” Crocker told Interior Design in November before his departure.
Once the 1,100-square-foot site was located, it seemed obvious to call David Montalba of Montalba Architects. Just down the street, the architect had created a memorable setting for The Row. And to interpret an American aesthetic for BLDWN, both men immediately agreed upon a pared-down palette and strong, simple forms.
Outside, the facade is freshly painted white brick and windows are newly framed with blackened steel, one displaying the brand’s new logo of backlit, darkened stainless steel. Inside, “everything is organized as a modular system of white oak frames holding ribbed glass,” said Montalba. Uprights are slotted to accept thin sheets of blackened aluminum for shelves, while oak “plinths” are really storage cabinetry. More of that comes in the form of freestanding wood “columns,” since there’s scant back-of-house space for extra merchandise. Meanwhile, hang bars and a few display stands are blackened steel. Across from the entry, an oak door that’s recessed from the storefront, is a focal wall comprised of an expanse of oak louvers.
The shop really reads American thanks to easily recognizable classics: a Warren Platner table, Milo Baughman console, and Charles and Ray Eames chairs for starters. All are for sale, as are design books, ceramics, and stoneware on display. When gone, they will be replaced with an ever-changing curated array of items.