Sunday, December 12, 2010

BURIED TREASURE: EXPLORING LA'S DESIGN TROVES

Barneys New York is known in the fashion industry as the undisputed leader of visual merchandising and display. Helmed by eccentrically glamorous Creative Director Simon Doonan, Barneys windows are a celebrated tradition that wildly and wonderfully encapsulate the "taste, luxury, and humor" of one of the world's greatest department stores. 

Current "Have a Foodie Holiday" window at Barneys New York

You can imagine the wonderland that is their prop room / storage area-- so I was of course beyond thrilled to catch a glimpse of it yesterday! It brought me back to my Visual Merchandising days at Max Azria , taking golf carts from our office to the gigantic warehouse where all the treasures were stored. I tried to snap pictures of my Barneys experience on my Blackberry, but they are a bit blurry. Hope you enjoy!!







Oh, to have that old steamer trunk, those salvaged theatre seats, the antique sofa tables! 

Seeing this reminded me of other "buried treasure" places I have been fortunate enough to visit-- if you are in Los Angeles, please finagle access to these places, you will be giving yourself such a wonderful treat!!


Omega Prop House supplies to-scale sketches of each piece to make it easier for designers

When I was in school studying to be an art director (yes, and now I am a fashion PR, I know), we were granted student access to Omega Prop House in West Hollywood. The prop house is the largest prop rental company in the world, consisting of four huge warehouses that stretch for blocks and blocks down Santa Monica Boulevard. Each warehouse is organized by type of furnishing (All Styles & Periods, Commercial, Indoor/Outdoor, and Office & Electronics), and from there is organized by genre and period (Wild West, Haunted House, Sixties and Seventies, etc.). This place is just beyond-- there are not even words to describe it! Every piece of art, furniture, fixture, or bauble that you could ever want from the history of mankind is there. The Little Mermaid with her "I've got gadgets and gizmos aplenty" has nothing on Omega Prop House. To rent the pieces, you have to present a Letter of Responsibility from a production company or prove that you are an established event planner or retail merchandiser. But like a museum, anyone can call and make an appointment for a tour. I would highly recommend it-- it is an incredible experience!


The water tower on the Warner Brothers lot, just like in "Tiny Toons"

I used to have a boyfriend who worked in internal audit at Warner Brothers, and it was super fun to go visit him on the lot (or "Acme Acres", as I liked to call it). No one likes being audited, so the general climate of paranoia that greeted my boyfriend where ever he went opened many doors of exploration for us. This was when I was still in school with a voracious appetite for learning everything I could about the creative industries, so the bf would set up meetings for me with the head of the art department and costume department for private tours, secure me tickets to executive screenings and exhibits, and present me with all-access general passes to wander as I pleased while he finished work. The lot really was a magical place. I especially liked the costume department (of course). You walk in through the production offices and go down a narrow hall of doors labeled "Gossip Girl", "90210", Harry Potter, and so on. Then you make it to a huge, open warehouse space where seamstresses are sewing and altering and steaming costumes in rows and rows of wooden tables. In the back, there is an old-fashioned freight elevator which takes you down into the subterranean "cages" area. Here, there are literally acres of racks of clothing, organized by period and genre. Costume designers pull from the racks and store their pieces in giant cages, labeled on a white board by production and character. Warner Brothers sources the pieces from auctions, sample sales, and costumes that have been created or sourced for other productions. They are always searching for more pieces to add to their internal collection, which they can charge other companies to use. In short, the place is a magical paradise.

OTHER WONDERFUL PLACES TO SEE:

Nestled behind the sky scrapers in Century City, you would never know that a huge lot and acres of costumes are making movie magic as you speed down Santa Monica Boulevard.

Beautiful architectural salvage and antique shop in downtown with breathtaking pieces for purchase or rental.

Shout out to my school, which curates a beautiful museum and is the guardian of many historic pieces displayed throughout campus, including original Christian Dior sketches by the legend himself. FIDM also has a great prop room!

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