For Paola Russo, style is all about the mix. “I like to mix culture, art, fashion, different textures…” says the Tunisian-born, French-bred, Los Angeles-based retailer who made her name as a buyer for cutting edge West Hollywood retailer Maxfield and is now the visionary force behind Just One Eye, L.A.’s current cult fashion obsession. An appointment-only boutique, showroom, gallery and online store housed in Howard Hughes’ former headquarters, a 1930 office building on a still sketchy stretch of burgeoning lower Hollywood, Just One Eye is known for the world class art on its walls (Damien Hirst, Takashi Murakami), and the enormous talents in its orbit: Iconic Los Angeles artist Ed Ruscha created his first-ever digital work for the website’s homepage, and graphics guru Peter Saville designed their logo.
Spring 2013 will see a Converse sneaker made from a cut-up painting by postmodern pop artist Nate Lowman, and Russo hints at future collaborations with Hoorsenbuhs, the edgy Santa Monica fine jeweler that recently opened an on-site atelier. These creative mash-ups are a Just One Eye trademark, and they reflect Russo’s synergistic approach. “I do believe the world is going too fast for one brain,” she asserts. “We need to do more collaborating and sharing and giving.”
Currently on the racks are clothes by Bouchra Jarrar (Nicolas Ghesquiere’s former right hand), and Gaultier alum Alexandre Vauthier, whose second-skin fit is favored by Beyonce and Alicia Keys. There are also fresh pieces from Valentino’s Noir collection, Proenza Schouler and The Row. The furniture that adorns the space – like a rare Carlo Bugatti throne chair or a surprisingly comfortable black leather porcupine beanbag from interior design studio Blackman Cruz – is also for sale. All of it adds up to a sort of global L.A. luxe, the embodiment of which is Russo herself. “Paola’s vision is like the one of an eagle,” says Mary Kate Olsen, one of Russo’s closest friends (and, incidentally, the only person Russo will name as a style icon). “She is able to take you to a different place every season.”
For winter she’s rolling out 12 crocodile backpacks from The Row, as interpreted by Damien Hirst. They are all black, but each is different: One is dotted with multi-colored plastic discs, another has gold painted spots, and, most outrageously, two are studded with a junkie’s paradise of pills. The $55,000 price tag (a portion of which goes to Unicef) hasn’t put anyone off; several bags are already spoken for.
Of course the question Russo poses with these backpacks – one that could be asked of many Just One Eye pieces – is: “Should I wear it, or should I hang it in my living room?”