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Accessories brand Thalé Blanc goes from pop-up to permanent on Melrose Place

Pop-up stores are a regular sight in Los Angeles as beauty and fashion brands briefly test out their lines, create buzz and then pull up stakes. But Deborah Sawaf, creative director and founder of accessories brand Thalé Blanc, put down roots, setting up a store that’s open Monday through Saturday as well as by appointment on Sunday.

Sawaf had her first Los Angeles pop-up during two weeks in December last year on Melrose Place, next to Monique Lhuillier’s boutique, in an 1,800-square-foot space previously occupied by a lingerie brand. (That might explain the chic jewel-box-style interior, complete with thick drapes around the dressing rooms that Sawaf is pondering uses for.)

Deborah Sawaf, creative director and founder of accessories brand Thalé Blanc.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

“I moved in here, and I just felt it was the right place,” said Sawaf, who grew up in India. “I realized that people here hadn’t seen the product. Nobody really knew who we were, and when they walked in off the street, they were surprised. That reaction alone made us decide to see if we could lease” the space.

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It’s a big step for a small brand that was started in 2010 and is otherwise available mostly in specialty boutiques, online and through Sawaf’s personal appearances in Europe and the Middle East. Since she officially opened the Los Angeles location, she says she has sold out of signature Thalé Blanc bags, including the Audrey Satchel inspired by Audrey Hepburn. (Audrey bag selections range from $995 to $1,900.)

“When someone randomly walks in off the street, this is what they go for,” she said, brandishing the bag, which has an exuberantly curved handle (Sawaf said the handle was inspired by the late actress’ swan-like neck), a quilted leather body, gilded chain and an abundance of Mongolian lamb fur.

The Audrey bag at Thalé Blanc.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Time)

Retail prices start at $495 for a soft lambskin clutch to $3,200 for a larger bag, and Thalé Blanc does special orders in alligator in the $8,000 to $9,000 range.

Sawaf is also a proponent of color and embellishments. Her spring/summer 2017 collection, Baroque and Roll, is as it sounds: lavish, flamboyant and edgy, with accents including ombré ostrich feather, chunky amethyst-shaded stones on patent fuchsia leather and bejeweled resin rosettes.

“We have the classics like the Audrey Tote and Audrey Soft, but then [we] offer more elaborate changes from season to season. And this season is pretty dramatic,” she said, showing evening clutches in metallic floral patterns and pearl-studded octagonal bags in onyx-black plexiglass.

An ongoing motif for the brand is the butterfly. A percentage of sales from Sawaf’s Flutter of Hope line of bags and clutches, in colors such as mauve and emerald and with nature-inspired embellishments, is donated to pediatric cancer research.

Along with new bags and clutches, new to the boutique is a small collection of ultra-soft shawls ($150 to $900), which are produced in India and made from cashmere or merino wool with Chantilly lace inserts, in shades such as burgundy and steel gray.

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The "Golden Orchid" evening clutch at Thalé Blanc.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Sawaf’s exotic aesthetic is almost inevitable given her global background.

The Mumbai-born designer spent the early part of her career creating the embroideries for venerable European fashion houses such as Gianfranco Ferré and Valentino and also established a couture line in Dubai, which she showed in Paris.

She designed furs for Saga Furs and, while in SoCal, she has studied at FIDM and the Gemological Institute of America. Sawaf’s vision encompasses those divergent interests.

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Just check out the Swarovski-studded Perspex handles on some of her handbags. Each crystal is methodically inserted by hand into a laser-cut groove in the handle.

“It should look like jewelry,” Sawaf said.

Thalé Blanc, 8481 Melrose Place, Los Angeles, 323-879-9955, thaleblanc.com

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