Arts District Pioneer Carl Louisville Heads to Westfield Century City

Carl Louisville’s pioneering store Guerilla Atelier proved that luxury and pricy avant-garde clothes could be sold in a neighborhood located a few blocks away from downtown’s Skid Row.

Guerilla Atelier was one of the first high-end boutiques to gamble on opening in the Arts District, which currently is anticipated to be a Los Angeles area poised for growth with restaurants, nightclubs, retail and creative-office spaces. Guerilla Atelier closed in mid-2017 after construction made it hard to do business on the 900 block of E. 3rd Street in the Arts District. During this time, two of Louisville’s neighboring boutiques closed. Only one, Apolis Common Gallery, will return to the Arts District.

Louisville will start another—counterintuitive—venture. On May 16, he will officially open Carl’s Atelier, a shop devoted to idiosyncratic luxe clothing. It will be located on the second level of Westfield Century City, which is focused on department-store anchors and many tenants that are familiar names to mall shoppers. Westfield Century City wrapped up a $1 billion remodel in 2017.

Louisville said that he is not fazed by the move from Eastside grit to Westside glam.

“It’s as daring of a project to offer a direct retail experience in a mall as it is opening a store a few blocks away from Skid Row,” Louisville said. “This is about creating experiences for people. It’s what I always have done. It will be creating an experience in Westfield.”

Louisville is bullish about the success of Carl’s Atelier because his shops always served as retail destinations. He forecasts his veteran customers and new people will find his new shop, a couple storefronts down from the mall’s popular Italian grocery/restaurant Eataly and a virtual reality theater called Dreamscape. The move could also be something of a homecoming. Before opening Guerilla Atelier, he was a Westsider. He served as the director of the Prada Epicenter flagship on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, Calif.

The 2,700-square-foot Carl’s Atelier in Westfield Century City will feature house brands such as the Carl’s Atelier Private Label Collection and Guillermo, which is a project from Los Angeles “starchitect” Mark Rios. Other lines will include made-to-measure Italian suits from Luca Grassia, the high-end Moroccan line Masion Allí and a shop-in-shop from art-book company Taschen. It also will offer art, home wares, jewelry and fragrance products.

Louisville said that he continues to be bullish about the Arts District’s future. However, there have been missteps, in his opinion. The area relies too heavily on pricy housing to drive its development. “My sincere hope is that the Arts District would develop in the way Silver Lake developed,” he said. There are no big brands or chain retailers in Silver Lake.” He feels that the Silver Lake shops are engaged with the neighborhood residents and are a part of the neighborhood’s life. “I felt we were part of building a community for destination spaces in the Arts District. It stopped doing that,” he said.

He blamed developers for not respecting the space of retailers. In 2017, Louisville closed Guerilla Atelier because his customers were being scared away by construction noise and debris from the Aliso Apartments, a 400,000-square foot compound adjacent to the shop. Louisville sued the developer, Fairfield Residential, but he said that he dropped the case in 2019 because he didn’t want to deal with the anguish of a lawsuit.

Boutique retailers continue to do business in the Arts District. They include 3.1 Philip Lim, Shinola, H. Lorenzo Archive and Rogue Collective. Colin T. McCarthy, creative director/vice president of Rogue Collective, said that the Arts District continues to hold a lot of potential.

“Nobody can replace Carl no matter how you try,” McCarthy said. “He’s got to be the most hospitable, customer-first store operator that has been around. His product was unparalleled. I think people are still inspired by what the Arts District can become.” He said it would offer elements of popular shopping districts such as New York’s Lower East Side and the SoHo of the 1990s, Los Angeles’ Abbot Kinney Boulevard of the late 2000s and a little bit of Aspen, Colo.