Just One Eye is more than meets the ... well never mind, no cliche could do it justice. Part luxury boutique, part art gallery, part bricks-and-mortar manifestation of a digital storefront, it stocks the cream of the eclectic crop — including $65 GoFast Inc. T-shirts and $46,400 Jitrois mink hoodies, a century-old Carlo Bugatti throne chair and brand new Blackman Cruz beanbag chairs (each priced well north of $20,000).
Uber-luxe destination retail is certainly not a new concept in the City of Angels. Nor, for that matter, is the notion of a highly eclectic, tightly edited, constantly changing merchandise mix. But Just One Eye manages to take things to a whole new level — offering a sly wink along the way — by doing both from a fortress-like Art Deco-style building in Hollywood from which tycoon Howard Hughes once ran his business empire. The result is somehow both over-the-top and under-the-radar, and quintessentially Los Angeles.
Just One Eye is the brainchild of co-founder Paola Russo, formerly the fashion director at Maxfield, L.A.'s original eclectic curator of cool, and a silent partner she declines to identify. The retail-art gallery concept launched first as a website, opening its virtual doors in November 2011. Its official bricks-and-mortar presence followed in January 2012.
"We wanted a very different retail concept — something very unusual," Russo says. "In L.A., everything is [located] in Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, so we wanted to put a kind of retail you don't expect somewhere that you don't expect it."
Russo and her team have leveraged their professional and personal relationships with celebrities, designers and artists, resulting in things such as a quirky collaboration between the Row and artist Damien Hirst — black patent leather Nile crocodile backpacks festooned with colorful pills or spots and priced at an astronomical $55,000.
Despite being just blocks away from the West Hollywood Gateway shopping complex, Just One Eye's exercise in calculated stealth — no storefront window, no overt signage — makes it impossible to accidentally stumble across. Customers can't even enter through the building's front door (which is locked). Instead, access is via a smaller, less noticeable side door, where visitors are greeted by a suit-and-tie wearing gentleman who escorts them down a long, unadorned hallway, past a handful of heavy, metal doors and then into a high-ceilinged, white-walled, 2,656-square-foot room that serves as the main retail space.
Art pieces dominate the walls — a triptych of Murakami nudes here, a Damien Hirst spot painting there and the space is filled with antique furniture, a mix that includes such items as vintage industrial floor lamps and a sofa whose frame was crafted from a Gothic church balcony. The clothes, which hang on matte black metal rolling racks scattered throughout the space, are from nearly obscure up-and-comers and some of the planet's best-known luxury labels.
For women, that means Paco Rabanne metal dresses, loose knit Rodarte cardigans, dresses and skirts by Anthony Vaccarello, jackets and bodysuits from Alexandre Vauthier, and a range of second-skin leather pieces from French label Jitrois.
The men's offerings, about 30% of the merchandise mix, are also a mix of the familiar — Kris Van Assche, Costume National, Yohji Yamamoto — and the less so — French leather line Séraphin, fur-lined outerwear from Yves Salomon, and Raif, a new luxe line of cashmere knits from Vancouver-based designer Raif Adelberg.
Some vintage jewelry — as well as new pieces by Wilfredo Rosado — can be found in the main room, but the real treasure-trove is in a smaller room across the hallway, a dedicated shop-in-shop space for local jewelry line Hoorsenbuhs, its custom display cases crammed with baubles sporting that brand's tri-link chain motif and bejeweled two-tone alligator leather loafers, part of the jewelry line's partnership with Newbark. In a third room, the walls are adorned with black-and-white photos, a few rolling racks of close-out clothes stand in one corner, and the middle of the floor is occupied by a dangerous-looking black leather porcupine-spiked Blackman Cruz beanbag chair that could easily have crawled out of a Tim Burton movie.
Upon leaving the luxury labyrinth it's hard to know if you've just visited retail Valhalla, shopped the Smithsonian or taken a time-traveling architectural tour of Howard Hughes' Hollywood. But one thing is certain: Even in a city that has seen more than its share of impressive excess, Just One Eye manages to steal focus.
Just One Eye, 7000 Romaine St., Los Angeles, (888) 563-6858, justoneeye.com Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.