Tory Burch opened a new brand chapter in Los Angeles with a kitty cat party Wednesday night, celebrating a new retail pop-up store concept envisioned by retail guru, restaurateur and K-pop girl group image-maker Humberto Leon.
With a Hollywood cast including Natasha Lyonne, Awkwafina, Beatrice Granno, Aja Naomi King, Rashida Jones and more, servers in cat ears with strawberry shaped ring pops on offer, and an after party at the legendary Formosa Cafe, the designer expressed her more playful side.
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“I love it,” said Burch, surveying the catty scene, even though she’s an unabashed “dog fanatic” whose miniature poodles Chicken and Slim have their own Instagram account. They were not invited to the party, though two TV producers were in the house who are working on a show with Tory that may or may not have something to do with her dogs.
Lukita Maxwell did bring her six-month-old kitten, Bean, as her date.
“She’s very social,” said Maxwell, wrestling with the tiny calico in her arms, and wearing Burch’s cat printed cargo pants to match. “She just wants to explore.”
“If I brought my cat here he’s going to freak out,” said “White Lotus” actress Granno of her Bill.
“I had a dog then I had a child…now I don’t have a dog anymore,” said King, in one of Burch’s ribbed knit hoop dresses, which she likened to “a hug.”
The pet chat was on-trend for the store decor, which takes inspiration from Burch’s resort 2024 collection, incorporating whimsical large scale black-and-white repeating cat and mouse portraits by German photographer Walter Schels. Every inch of the interior is covered in shag carpet, including a structural beam designed to mimic a cat scratching post.
“It was probably the easiest creative process because we were very in sync,” Burch said of working with Leon, a SoCal native who started his career in visual design for The Gap and Old Navy, among other brands, and cofounded Opening Ceremony with Carol Lim in 2002 as a retail destination — and collaboration factory — that became its own brand. “I told him I wanted to have something incredibly unusual and strange, and he said, ‘I’m definitely into that.’”
Leon went deep into Schels’ portraits (the German artist is 88 years old) for material, and commissioned Aranza Garcia of Chuch Estudio in Merida, Mexico, to make 40 pink ceramic chairs placed in a grid to create a display resembling an art installation. Strawberry-shaped vases add even more whimsy to match Burch’s cool galactic-looking hoop dresses, pierced shoes and safety pin jewelry from the resort and spring collections.
The crowd was taking notice of the new direction in the store, which is open through the end of the year. “This is a huge leap from the beginning, and to see it like this you get it in a different way,” said stylist Erin Walsh, who works with Selena Gomez, Anne Hathaway and Juno Temple among others.
“There’s definitely a design shift happening. I like it,” said costume designer Shirley Kurata, who just finished working on “Opus,” a film about a pop star who returns following a decades-long disappearance, starring Ayo Edebiri.
After the store party, guests decamped to the historic Formosa Café, founded in 1925, and a haunt to generations of Hollywood nightcrawlers.
Drinks were flowing — martinis, margaritas, mai tais and more, as friends piled into the original Red Car Trolley room, gazed at the old celebrity photos on the walls, and donned cat masks for photo ops of their own in the red leather booths.
“I came here for the first time as a teenager because someone told me Madonna was here — and she was,” said Leon, whose family guest-catered the Chinese Peruvian dinner at the Formosa, including Mala Har Gow, Lomo Saltado and Dan Dan Mian noodles.
Leon opened his first fantastically decorated L.A. restaurant Chifa with his family in 2020, followed by Monarch and Arroz & Fun in 2023. He’s also the director of the K-pop group Katseye, winners of the “Dream Academy” competition show created by Hybe and Universal Music Group, which will be featured in an upcoming Netflix series.
Leon, like several others at the party, moved West to explore the growing synergy between fashion and entertainment.
“I’ve delved into another world of product in TV shows,” said Opening Ceremony cofounder Carol Lim, who has been working with Jenny Han, “The Summer I Turned Pretty” novelist and producer.
Another recent L.A. transplant, former First Lady Michelle Obama’s stylist Meredith Koop, reflected on the changing landscape.
“I’ve known Humberto and Carol since I did an Opening Ceremony holiday room in the White House,” she said, reminiscing about how she used to go out of her way to shop the duo’s brick-and-mortar retail stores, which were rich with discovery.
With Burch, at least, Leon is back at it.
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