Austere (photo by Marcia Prentice)

Austere (photo by Marcia Prentice)

AUSTERE

Scandinavian Design in Downtown Los Angeles

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MULTI-PURPOSE : Located in a space that once housed a 1920-era department store garage, Austere is a showroom and retail compound where high-end to smaller-scale design events will be held, as well as an exhibition space for visual artists and designers. (Photo by Marcia Prentice)

Located within blocks of downtown Los Angeles' new­est fashionable destinations—Acne Studios, Aesop and Ace Hotel—Swedish design emporium Austere recently opened in a 5,000-square-foot space that was once the garage for a 1920s-era department store.

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Austere (photo by Marcia Prentice)

"I find it serendipitous that we are opening a department store and it used to be part of a May Co. department-store garage. Volvo was also founded the same year, 1927. I [appre­ciate] the connection," said Austere's Swedish-born creative director and founder, Fredrik Carlström.

Located on the corner of Ninth and Hill streets, Austere serves as a multi-purpose space. It is a showroom and retail compound where high-end to smaller-scale design events will be held, and it is an exhibition space for visual artists and furniture designers. The store's Nordic specialty items range from modern home décor and furnishings to emerging fashion designs. A 2015 Volvo SUV sits in the midst of it all. A swing­ing LED chair suspended from the vaulted ceiling hangs next to an Electrolux model kitchen while Aalto stools align the window display and a beautifully made Louis Poulsen "Ph Artichoke" chandelier peeks over it all. The space's wood-paneled restroom resembles a sauna.

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Austere (photo by Marcia Prentice)

The minimalist space features highly curated items mer­chandised so it is clear and visible to the consumer. Carl­ström received assistance from Acne Creative, the creative arm of Acne Studios, as well as The Guild LA and Volvo. "The Guild LA is amazing. They fabricated everything in the space—with the displays, pods, tables, railings—and co-designed most of it," Carlström said. "Acne Creative is our technology partner and re­sponsible for building the whole website. Volvo [participated] early on as partners and supported us in securing the launch."

Carlström's career began in advertising. One of his first assignments involved helping to re-brand a houseware company, Iittala. This was Carlström's introduction to designers such as Thomas Sandell, Thomas Eriksson, Ross Love­grove and Jasper Morrison. Carlström also got to experience the transformative process of design and what it was like to revamp a brand with "rich history," he said.

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Austere (photo by Marcia Prentice)

In 2000, he moved to New York, where he helped many Scandinavian designers break into the U.S. market.

Austere is both an extension of Carlström's marketing and consulting experience and the real­ization of an idea to build a showroom that would give brands an opportunity to tell a story.

"When you go to larger department stores, the customer is usually overwhelmed," Carlström said. "I wanted the space to be like a lifestyle magazine but one you could touch and smell with a digital component. I had this idea to introduce the best of the best. Women and men buy things this way—their favorite jeans, etc., almost like a uniform. So for lighting, furniture, design and fashion, we wanted to collect the best of each cat­egory."

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Austere (photo by Marcia Prentice)

Austere carries men's and women's apparel and accesso­ries, including Our Legacy, a classic menswear line with a modern edge using clean lines and dark tones. Stutterheim is a raincoat collection that recently developed a collabora­tion collection with rapper Jay-Z and Barneys New York. (Stutterheim also created a custom car cover for Volvo's Concept Estate Car.) The White Briefs makes undergar­ments for men and women using environmentally friendly fabrics such as organic cotton. The brand has collaborated with notable individuals such as fashion forecaster Nick Wooster and photographer Peter Lindbergh. Swedish duo Natalia Altewai and Randa Saome of Altewaisaome cre­ate women's clothing with clean silhouettes and stark col­orways. They received an Elle award for "Best Newcomer of the Year" in 2012 and the "Designer of the Year" award at the Elle Gala in Stockholm this year. Schnayderman's, which means "tailor man" in Yiddish, is a casual button-down men's line that uses mother-of-pearl buttons to accent the shirts. Jewelry lines Ebba Brahe and Johnna Dauphin offer unique, one-of-a-kind pieces.

"As for apparel brands, the space will act as a show­room where members of the media and buyers can experi­ence it on a personal level and as a retailer," Carlström said. "Customers can purchase items on a cash-and-carry basis, [and] Austere will be launching an e-commerce site very soon."

Carlström is not only focused on introducing Scandina­vian brands but building a community within downtown Los Angeles. "I hadn't spent much time in downtown, but while one of my good friends, Mikael Schiller, chairman of Acne Studios, was working with the Ace Hotel to open Acne's Los Angeles location, I fell in love with the [energy] here. It felt like Soho 15 years ago," Carlström said. "There is a sense of something unfinished here, and it is evolving. It is [like] finding a gem within a gem."

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