There was a time in Downtown LA’s not-so-distant past where the nicest fashionable items you’d find were knock-off designers somewhere within the maze of Santee Alley. Not that I have anything against downtown’s own bargain fashion bazaar (it kind of reminds me fondly of New York’s chaotic Canal Street), but I am very glad to see an influx of new higher end shops (i.e., Acne Studios, The Well, Brigade, Apolis: Common Gallery, and Zara to name a few) making their way into LA’s urban center, adding that much needed balance to Downtown LA’s retail scene (we got a lot of lows but very few highs). Guerilla Atelier is the newest addition to Downtown LA’s growing high-end retail stock, bringing lux designer labels to the Arts District.
Carl Louisville, who is the owner of Guerilla Atelier, gave me a tour recently of his store located in the Arts District near 3rd and Hewitt Street. The 4,000 square foot store occupies a cavernous space within a much larger industrial warehouse building owned by a specialty retail company called PAH (Parallel Acquisitions and Holdings), which plans to eventually add more high-end retailers and eateries to the large former warehouse space.
Clothing racks are spaced comfortably apart from each other selling esoteric designer clothing and accessories for both men and women. Some examples of labels include $3000 suits by Cesare Attolini, casual vintage attire by Mister Freedom, LA-based women’s brand Beckley by Melissa, jewelry from Melissa McClure, and handmade leather shoes by Saint Crispin’s. In addition, Louisville tells me that Guerilla Atelier is one of the only stores in the country offering the full line of apothecary products from Costes (as in Hôtel Costes in Paris, France).
What started out as a pop-up store, Louisville tells me, is now permanent.
“At first I asked myself, ‘Can this really work in Downtown LA?’” Louisville said referring to the idea of selling very high end designer labels in downtown. “The concept we have here is definitely a first in downtown, and to a certain extent, even for Los Angeles.”
Guerilla Atelier has proven that there is a demand for luxury products in Downtown LA. The store has done so well that after just 30 days of operating as a pop-up shop, starting in the middle of May 2013, Louisville decided to make it into a permanent store. According to Louisville, shoppers come from all parts of the world, but most surprisingly, many who buy live right here in Downtown LA.
Louisville is no stranger to the world of high fashion. As the Director of Epicenter for Prada in Beverly Hills for 15 years, many considered him the unofficial mayor of Rodeo Drive. It was through his connection at Prada and his love for downtown that he first conceived the idea of opening his own store.
“I was giving the President of Prada a tour of Downtown LA one night during the monthly Art Walk event,” Louisville explains. “We were sitting outside at Banquette Cafe [near 4th and Main] and he said to me that the energy of downtown was one of the most exciting he’s ever felt — anywhere! It just made me realize I wanted to open my own ‘perfect’ lifestyle environment.”
And I had to ask what the most popular item being sold in the store was. The answer? What Louisville calls the “Downtown Denim Jacket” because so many have been sold to those living downtown. Handmade with buttons made of fine wood from Brazil, it’s essentially the “navy blazer of denim jackets” that goes with just about everything.
“We’ve ordered one every week since opening,” said Louisville.
For more info, visit Guerilla Atelier online.