Tory Burch Taps Humberto Leon for Fun New Pop-up Concept
For Tory Burch, when one door closed another opened.
With her Rodeo Drive store under renovation until the fall, the designer got the idea to tap retail guru, restaurateur and K-pop girl group image-maker Humberto Leon to open a new pop-up concept store in Los Angeles celebrating the playful chapter of the 20-year-old brand that has been discovered by a new generation of Hollywood “It” girls, including Hailey Bieber, Ariana Grande and Hunter Schafer.
Taking inspiration from her resort 2024 collection, incorporating whimsical black-and-white animal portraits by German photographer Walter Schels, the space is a departure from her other store designs. A large-scale game of cat and mouse unfolds along Melrose Avenue and La Cienega Boulevard, featuring projections of a mouse repeating along the outside of the building, and a cat, mid-meow, repeating on the wall inside. Every inch of the interior is covered in shag carpet, including a structural beam designed to mimic a cat scratching post.
Open through the end of 2024, the store neighbors L.A. faves Alfred Coffee and Glossier, and Melrose Place’s Gucci Salon, Bottega Veneta, Rachel Comey, Staud and The Row stores.
Using his outsider eye, Leon curated a selection of Burch’s resort 2024 collection pieces for the pop-up, mixing runway with Tory Sport fleece for a high-low look, along with the first drop of spring 2024, including the Hoop dress debuted by Bieber on Instagram, the draped goddess miniskirt worn by Emily Ratajkowski and the Pierced wedge shoe. There’s also a special Melrose collection of concert-style T-shirts and sweatshirts, and totes with Schels portraits, which Burch admires for their human-like personalities.
The pop-up arrives during the busy awards social season in L.A., and is also stocked with Burch’s metallic bucket bags, crystal ballet flats and other going-out essentials.
“I want to meet all the needs of women, and part of that is dressing up — and the dresses keep getting smaller and smaller,” she laughed.
“We found this space on Melrose and it was the perfect opportunity to really show people where we are today versus 10 years ago,” said the designer, who has admired Leon since he had his Opening Ceremony stores. Her husband and the brand’s chief executive officer Pierre-Yves Roussel also knew the multifaceted creative from when he was working as chairman and CEO of LVMH Fashion Group, and hired Leon and Carol Lim to design Kenzo from 2011 to 2019.
Leon cofounded Opening Ceremony with Lim in 2002 as a retail destination — and collaboration factory — that became its own Fashion brand. He opened his first restaurant, Chifa, in L.A. 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.
“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. “I told him I wanted to have something incredibly unusual and strange, and he said, ‘I’m definitely into that.’”
“Since opening my restaurants I’ve really delved into interiors, and thinking about how to create something experiential and fun and interesting,” Leon said. (As an example, the 1980s fabulous wild colored and patterned interior of Chifa was inspired by the work of filmmaker Wong Kar-wai and industrial designer Syd Mead, with an Instagram-friendly heart-shaped takeout window and collection of vintage Chinese figurines repainted to wear designer duds by artist Charlie Mai.)
“Whenever anyone talks to me about anything that I’ve ever done, it’s always about the feeling of being somewhere…so I looked at Tory as a person, and she’s really a very funny lady. Whenever we talk, we get kind of silly, and I wanted to bring that side of her to the store…and create a little space that celebrates all kinds of culture,” Leon said.
He went deep into Schels’ portraits (the German artist is 88 years old), then enlisted Calico Wallpaper (from a collaboration forged through his restaurants) to make the store’s wall imagery. He commissioned Aranza Garcia of Church Estudio in Merida, Mexico, to make 40 pink ceramic chairs placed in a grid to create a display that would resemble an art installation. “When you come into my restaurant, you feel transported someplace else, and I wanted that for her,” Leon said.
Sharing her creative platform with Leon was “refreshing,” Burch said. “Humberto is such a master of merchandising as well, and took elements from our Sport collection to the holiday dresses, and just the way he displays the handbags and footwear.…I think it’s exciting. I wish we could do a pop-up for every collection.”
“Tory is not opposed to evolving, which is what I love about her,” he said. “I think we’re in this really incredible wave of Tory, where she’s really focused on creating fun, interesting things. And it’s super exciting for me to be a part of it when she’s excited to experiment and approach design in a way that I think feels now.”
Over the past few seasons, Burch has found a new customer by elevating her brand with minimalist, versatile pieces, leggy silhouettes, sensual and technical fabrications, plus some oddities, like resort’s cat and bunny photo prints.
“Pierre Yves coming on board five years ago has given me the opportunity to think about the essence of what the brand is to me,” she said. “When I started the company, it was very much about the creative and the product and then the business came in and took me away from the thing that I love the best and that’s the creativity,” she added of her path to becoming a billion-dollar brand. “I was spending maybe 30 percent of my time on the creative process. And now it’s 100 percent. I’ve always loved a bit of an oddity, but I’d never been able to execute it in the way that I am today.…To try new things and take a lot of risks, that’s what inspires me.”
This week Burch will be in L.A. for the store opening party, followed by a dinner at the circa 1925 Formosa Café featuring food from Leon’s Chinese Peruvian café Chifa in Eagle Rock.
While Burch has been busy expanding her business in Europe and Asia, for 2024 she’s also focusing on North America, and plans to visit several U.S. cities, including presumably coming back to L.A. in the fall when Rodeo Drive reopens.
Meanwhile, Leon will continue to play and refresh her pop-space, while opening another restaurant in February, alongside his work with Katseye, whose songs will begin to drop in May/June, followed by the Netflix documentary on their origin story in which he features heavily.
The group also happens to have the perfect name to rock Burch’s cat T-shirts, right?
“If anybody knows me, all my worlds always collide,” Leon laughed.
Tory Burch Taps Humberto Leon for Fun New Pop-up Concept