Swedish retailer H&M Group’s more upscale, minimalist brand COS (originally an abbreviation for Collection of Style) tends to fly under the sartorial radar despite having 215 stores worldwide, including a store in Beverly Hills as well as ones at the Beverly Center in Los Angeles and at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa.
This year the 10-year-old, London-based brand continued to expand its foothold in Southern California. COS quietly opened its fourth L.A.-area boutique (and 14th U.S. location) in the historic Olympic Theatre building at 313 W. 8th St. in downtown Los Angeles in late August, and it celebrated the occasion last month during a festive party at West Hollywood restaurant and lounge Ysabel.
The store opening, part of a retail revival in downtown, follows COS’ successful shop-in-shop in November 2015 in the now-defunct concept store Austere on South Hill Street.
The building, in which COS has its 5,511-square-foot store, dates to 1927 when it was Bard’s 8th Street Theatre. In 1932 the theater was renamed the Olympic Theatre to commemorate the Summer Olympic Games in L.A. that year.
COS had the notable Olympic sign and building facade restored, a nod to the brand’s commitment to architecture and design. That design-inspired focus can be found in COS’ fashion collections along with reasonable price points, which max out around $450 for, say, a cashmere-blend coat.
Another trait COS has been known for is that it doesn’t generally publicize the Hollywood stars who wear its men’s and women’s pieces. So it might be a surprise to learn that celebrity stylist Jeanne Yang has dressed actors Tom Holland, Kumail Nanjiani and Emmy winner Alexander Skarsgård in COS’s clean-lined styles.
“I have always been a fan of casual-cocktail or work-to-weekend clothing — separates that can straddle the line for many different occasions,” Yang said. “COS has been a great go-to place for me to find the right pieces that are hip and always hit the right note. These are young, cool guys who don’t want to look like they are trying too hard but want that easygoing, elegant style.”
Karla Welch, another Hollywood stylist, is a fan of the brand. She has worked COS into the wardrobes of model-entrepreneur Karlie Kloss and actresses America Ferrera, Kathryn Hahn and Lisa Kudrow.
“I just love the modern yet unique quality of the clothes,” Welch said. “It feels sort of Japanese but not completely identifiable.”
Everything we create should have that feeling of quality, of something you’d like to keep for a long time.
In collaboration with British magazine the Gentlewoman, the new downtown L.A. store offers free maps of 15 L.A.-area architectural landmarks, including the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall and the late Gin Wong’s modernist Union 76 gas station in Beverly Hills.
COS also publishes a biannual magazine profiling influential artists, musicians and architects alongside its seasonal fashion, and, since 2012, it has partnered with designers on installations at the renowned Salone del Mobile furniture fair in Milan, Italy.
“We offer a timeless aesthetic that lasts beyond the moment,” COS creative director Karin Gustafsson said by phone from London. “Everything we create should have that feeling of quality, of something you’d like to keep for a long time. We try to look towards modernist art and Midcentury Modern furniture for inspiration. We are very much about reinventing the classics, giving them new proportions.”
For fall, for example, COS’ design team reworked the crease, a classic element on a tailored pant, and put it into a new context by using it on a skirt or dress.
“We looked at industrial colors, a lot of grays in concrete and metal,” Gustafsson said. “One of the inspirations was [San Francisco-born,] New York-based artist Tauba Auerbach’s canvas fold paintings. We’ve explored a way of folding fabric, creating soft looks to balance the tailoring and contrast masculine with feminine.”
On Oct. 20 COS will introduce the 11-piece women’s capsule line, Creating With Shapes ($99-$390), at its downtown store and online. The collection, which features an intricate draping and pleating technique with no darts or seams, was developed with Usha Doshi, a longtime COS design partner and former teacher at London’s Royal College of Art.
“California and particularly L.A. is a vast inspiration because there’s such a strong history of midcentury architecture,” said Gustafsson, noting that the brand continually looks to L.A. Light and Space artist James Turrell and late architect-design couple Charles and Ray Eames for inspiration. “I think design, overall, is becoming more and more an intrinsic part of the L.A. landscape and culture. The downtown area is so vibrant.”
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