Ilaria Urbinati goes retail with Confederacy in Los Feliz

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

ILARIA URBINATI has made a name for herself styling some of Hollywood's hottest young actors -- Emile Hirsch, James McAvoy and Ben Foster among them. But she also knows a thing or two about retail. The California-bred stylist was the buyer behind influential Los Angeles boutiques Satine and Milk, introducing L.A. to winsome designers such as Roland Mouret and Rebecca Minkoff.

Now she's casting her shrewd fashion eye on her own store, Confederacy -- a sprawling ode to edgy fashion, fine art and old-school customer service.

The 5,000-square-foot Los Feliz emporium, which includes a quaint courtyard cafe, is set to launch sometime this week. Expansive and eclectic, it will be the first genuinely swanky fashion outpost in the 'hood.

Urbinati, the daughter of local art dealer Fiorella Urbinati, isn't going it alone. Actor turned DJ Danny Masterson (of "That '70s Show") and Vancouver-based business mogul Aly Mawji -- members of the stylist's spider-webbed circle of high-profile friends -- are partnering with her on the shop.

This crew is all about six degrees of separation: Mawji and Masterson also co-own a new L.A. restaurant, Shin, with producer and DJ Mark Ronson and Julian Casablancas, the lead singer for the Strokes. And Urbinati has teamed up with another Strokes member, guitarist Albert Hammond Jr., to create a private-label collection of men's suits for the store, Albert Hammond for Confederacy.

"It's a family affair," Urbinati said. "Everyone involved is a friend." That's reflected in the name -- which the co-owners borrowed from the John Kennedy Toole book "A Confederacy of Dunces" and liked for the way it defines them as "a league or alliance."

Hammond, who's engaged to supermodel Agyness Deyn and has been credited with conceptualizing the Strokes' much-mimicked style, said that the chance to collaborate with Urbinati and Masterson was what finally persuaded him to dip his hand into mass fashion. "Bouncing things off people is one of my favorite things, even in music," he said. "If you surround yourself with the right people, you can really get some good things back."

The private label is one of dozens of brands on tap at Confederacy, which occupies two buildings -- one on the street, the other tucked behind. Women's lines from Azzedine Alaïa, Boy by Band of Outsiders, Etro, Proenza Schouler, Martin Margiela, A.P.C. and Vena Cava inhabit the front building. In the back building is the store's avalanche of menswear lines, including Patrik Ervell, Nom de Guerre, Tim Hamilton, Michael Bastian and Rag & Bone (both the bespoke and ready-to-wear collections).

The rarity and quality of the lines -- paired with Urbinati's talent for making guys look like GQ versions of themselves -- will make Confederacy the new hot spot for men's clothing. (Another draw will be the in-store tailor, who's able to "reinvent every aspect of the way a suit fits," Urbinati said.)

Hammond, who's worn countless sharp suits in his day, said he thought there was a void in the men's market for stylish suits that weren't exorbitantly priced (suits in his collection range from $1,200 to $1,500). "Men don't have that many options," he said. "It's Men's Wearhouse or what?"

The line's full of bold colors (maroon and dark green among them), slim fits (even slightly shrunken at the sleeves and hem) and minute details (such as leather accents on a tweed hunting suit and a buttoned waist-strap on the back of vests). The pieces are current, but not so trendy your grandpa couldn't get away with wearing one.

"If anything, I'm trying to do something that's classic," Hammond said. "You put it on, you feel like a man, you look good."

The back building will also be home to the "shoe living room," housing a cozy nook for men's and women's shoes from Marc Jacobs, United Bamboo, Opening Ceremony, Loeffler Randall, F-Troupe and Repetto, and more.

The boutique has a sweet, time-worn feel. But the décor isn't its only retro aspect. Its co-owners are hyped on resurrecting superb customer service. "I see 'Miracle on 34th Street,' " Urbinati said, "with our guys walking out with hat boxes."

The salespeople will certainly look sharp. Rag & Bone created the uniform: suspenders, button-down shirts with rolled sleeves and vests -- with trousers for guys and either high-waisted shorts or a miniskirt for gals.

Fashion may be Confederacy's main bag, but it would be easy to while away half a day browsing through its other distractions. The European-style cafe is bordered by a vintage newsstand stocked with mainstream and hard-to-find magazines. Inside, there's a scattering of other offerings: coffee-table books, beauty products (from brands including Tom Ford, Stila, Smith & Cult and Baxter of California) and loads of artwork -- the space will also double as an art gallery.

First up: Julian Schnabel etchings, followed by fine-art photographers James Gooding, Mercedes Helnwein and Alex Prager.

Between the fashion and art, the shop is a treasure trove of marquee names, all woven into this hip new confederacy.

"People are surprised by the name," Urbinati said, "but it's really what this is all about -- having a cultural center."

4661 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 913-3040.

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