The facade of the new Bode store in Los Angeles — bone white plaster, two windows obscured by humdrum vertical blinds, signage worthy of a municipal building — is discreet to the point of invisible. It could easily be a small-town haberdashery from a bygone era.
Bode, a cult men’s wear brand led by the designer Emily Adams Bode, 32, has achieved success by whispering instead of shouting. She attracts a clientele that isn’t looking for just a boxy work jacket made from an antique quilt, or a pair of patch-worked trousers, but instead consumers interested in how these were made.
“I hope that, with my clothes, people have an emotional relationship,” she said on a hot February afternoon, as employees put finishing touches on the store’s dark wood interior before the opening that evening. “I want the same thing when they enter into this space.”
Aaron Aujla, who designed the store (and is Ms. Bode’s husband), added: “If it’s not tied to something personal and meaningful, then what are we even doing?”
The Los Angeles store is Ms. Bode’s second and, at 3,200 square feet, four times the size of her original location on Hester Street in New York’s Chinatown. A friend told her of two neighboring vacancies along a stretch of Melrose Avenue among high-end furniture stores, and the spaces have now been combined, the walls lined with cabinets and cupboards made of American walnut, and the overhead wood beams left exposed.
Custom furniture comes from Mr. Aujla’s furniture and interior design company, Green River Project. In front of an oversize mirror sits a dramatic chaise upholstered in a turn-of-the-century coverlet from Ms. Bode’s personal textile collection. A nearby table was topped with three bird’s nests from Connecticut.
“New York was about establishing a set of visual cues, like, ‘This is what the brand is about,’” Mr. Aujla, 36, said. “So L.A. was us thinking, what else can we talk about?”
For inspiration they looked to classic bureaucratic architecture from Southern California from the 1930s through the ’50s, like Department of Motor Vehicles offices and post offices and educational institutions. Taxonomy placards, fossils and model animal skeletons add a Wes Anderson-esque theatricality (a plaster cast of a dodo bird skeleton perched above a rack of shirts serves as “a cautionary tale of overconsumption,” Mr. Aujla said). Ms. Bode said they plan to host educational programming at the store, or community events, like mask making for Halloween.
As brands like Nike and Gucci enter the metaverse, Ms. Bode has built a career heading in the opposite direction. Her love of found textiles and upcycled fabrics comes from a lifelong practice of scouring swap meets and estate sales with her family. She’s channeled much of that sensibility into a business that looks, in some ways, as if it’s pre-Industrial Revolution, when you knew the person who made your clothes, if you didn’t make them yourself.
For this she has won two CFDA Awards, for Best Emerging Menswear Designer in 2019 and Best Menswear Designer last year, and was named GQ’s Breakthrough Designer of 2019. Celebrities like Harry Styles, Justin Bieber and Leon Bridges are fans, though Ms. Bode and Mr. Aujla geeked out when they saw the minimalist architect John Pawson wearing Bode.
It’s not uncommon to go to the Hester Street store and find a one-of-a-kind shirt that Ms. Bode herself dropped off. In fact it’s become a sort of downtown Manhattan bragging right to own one of these. She estimated that about 30 percent to 40 percent of her business is one of a kind; 600 of these styles were available at the Los Angeles store when it opened on Friday.
On Thursday night she and Mr. Aujla hosted a small gathering to celebrate the store, and keeping in line with her low-key temperament, it was light on A-list names (OK, Jeff Goldblum swung by), and heavy on friends and fellow creative types from the Los Angeles art, fashion and furniture scenes. A smattering of fashion editors milled about, along with the photographer Tyler Mitchell and the shoe designer Aurora James.
“My goal as a designer is, yes, to get clothes on to people,” Ms. Bode said. “But maybe people will go back to their homes and begin to talk with their family members about products so that, when you clean out a relative’s house, when you would otherwise just throw something in the dumpster, you can find a new use for it. You can begin to have a little bit more context for the way in which your family used to live or, you know, work to preserve things.”