Issue: Spring 2016
Crossroads of Fashion
If you are driving up the 6600 block of Sunset Boulevard, you can't help but notice the 60-foot tower which announces you are at Crossroads of The World, a unique Los Angeles landmark from the 1930s. Styled to resemble an ocean liner, Crossroads has been called America's first outdoor shopping mall. Amongst the many cottages within the art deco buildings are unique fashion businesses like Grau Design, Hats by Montez and SOL Los Angeles, who have taken up residence.
"I have always been thrilled to come to work at the Crossroads property," said Claudia Grau, a veteran fashion designer. "I have now been here since 1997 and have enjoyed its rich history. I really appreciated that Mort (La Kretz, the landlord) landmarked it so it could be preserved."
Grau started her business in 1979 when she was just 21 years old. "I opened my first store on the then sleepy Melrose Avenue in 1980. At that time, there were eight stores from Doheny to Highland Avenue! It was a very exciting time in Los Angeles and I quickly found my first success making deconstructed rags call "Depression Wear" which was very popular with celebrities like Cher, Bette Midler and Diane Keaton."
Grau was picked up by stylists in many commercials and movies. Most of her work is re-purposed up-cycled work. "Next came my re-purposed Kimono jacket, which started my wholesale career selling to 300 boutiques and department stores. In 1994, just before my second child was born, I closed my store and studio in pursuit of my new adventure in family life. When my third child was born, just two years later, I decided I needed a place to get out of the house and found a wonderful spot at the Crossroads of the World. I created a stealth career doing high profile interior work and by appointment boutique. In 2011, it was time to re-open my store, and I started an artist collective, spreading my wings to four locations at the Crossroads."
Now, almost five years later, Grau has decided to go back to a 'once a week open' store, and take private appointments for her clientele. "They seem to like it that way. Although I do sell a small portion online at my website (www.thegrauhaus.com), I still enjoy and appreciate the personal service of taking care of my customer one of a kind one at a time, much like my clothes."
Most of Grau's collections include men shirts, kimonos and sweaters. Her latest work is eco dyeing with plants and silk ribbons, which is the inspiration for her love of the rich plant life that surrounds the Crossroads property. "I used to fight Huell Howser over the bountiful fig tree in the parking lot, and the grand spectacle of the cactus vine that climbs up the huge palm tree that may have over 200 blooms for a short 24-hour period! Being in the first shopping center is a great privilege-I hope as things change around here, the charm will still remain."
Crossroads has always been an intriguing place to Susan Murphy-owner of The Millinery Guild-since she was a little girl. As a unique hat maker for 26 years, Murphy started making clothing in the 1980's and has sold to numerous boutiques and punk shops.
"My mother lived in Hollywood in the late 1930s and had a photo taken here. It looked like a Ginger Rogers/Fred Astaire movie set to me. So fantastic! I feel so privileged to be here-it's like a small European town."
Murphy (also known as "Montez") has worked with some incredible fashion stylists including Louis Verdad, Ashley Sean Thomas, Michelle Tomaszewski and has worked with fashion photographers like Colin Angus, Rose Cefalu and Michael Stahlberg, along with Mexican-American clothing designer Mondo Guerra. She also has numerous celebrity clientele, like Toni Basil, Bette Midler and costume designer Janicza Bravo. Recently, Murphy made the hats for the Gwen Stefani video which was filmed live at the Grammys.
Murphy makes hats by hand with vintage blocks and with blocks she makes. Murphy explained the differences between a hatter and a milliner: "A milliner is different from a hatter. A milliner makes women's hats from many materials including felt and straw, while hatters make mens' hats, mostly from felt and straw."
Most of Murphy's blocks are one of a kind. "I mostly make women's hats although I do have the tools and blocks to make mens' hats. I have one of the most coveted hatters tool, a 1900's Conformatour head sizing tool from France. I made Le Kretz a hat for his 90th birthday, with a leather head size band, and has his initials done with my 119-year-old initialing machine! I use vintage specialized hat sewing machines for sewing braid and one that sews the brim to the crown."
Murphy also brings in other milliner hats into the shop. "I have Cristina de Prada from Barcelona, she is one of my favorites. (www.cristinadeprada.com) I'm planning a fashion show for the spring with another milliner that is also in Hollywood, whose name is Bijoux Van Ness. Also, I'm working on a line of hats to offer in my website and also working on spring and summers hats for the shop."
Husband and wife design team duo, Eli and Lindsey Myers created SOL Los Angeles, a sportswear label deeply rooted in the California lifestyle. Designed for men and women with a "low maintenance" approach to refined living, the line features vintage inspired florals, soft beachy graphic t-shirts, sweatshirts, tailored shorts, cotton hooded jackets and the signature wave logo. Celebrities like Zoe Saldana, Ben Affleck and Kourtney Kardashian have been seen wearing the brand. You can check the line out at Nordstroms, Saks and Macys DH.