Curious types will find it hard to stay away from a place named Please Do Not Enter, and that’s exactly the kind of response the edgy L.A. luxury boutique expects. Now in its third year, the concept store is a reflection of the city’s evolving downtown — an emerging epicenter of the fashion, arts and design scenes. “The full name is Please Do Not Enter Downtown Los Angeles — and that’s what you’ve been told for 50 years, that Downtown is dangerous, it’s a ghost city and there’s nothing to do there,” said co-founder Nicolas Libert. “There are people who still believe that.”
With a background in real estate and a passion for art, Libert relocated from France to launch the shop with his partner, Emmanuel Renoird. The boutique began as a by-appointment-only space that presented men’s footwear and apparel from international designers, and last year the duo formally expanded into women’s collections as well as accessories.
Within the shop, avant-garde sculptural home decor items are sold alongside frog-skin purses, silicone scarves and silk-thread shoes adorned with embroidered eyes. “We built the store like a private collection, like being in your home,” Libert explained. “In your home, you don’t have a room dedicated to fashion, a room dedicated to art and a third room dedicated to design — you mix everything.”
Libert added that this strategy aligns with the current consumer preference for experiential shopping.
“There’s not a lot of foot traffic in Los Angeles and it’s always an issue for retailers because people are driving more than walking. So you have to make things different,” he said. “That’s why we build those collections.”
Please Do Not Enter’s top-performing shoe brand is Camper’s artsy Camper-Lab line. Other labels include Pete Sorensen, La Charentaise, Adieu and Cipher. “We like to give visibility to young designers, artists and people who are working on smaller productions and exclusives that are not known in the U.S.,” Libert said. “That’s how we can have added value and bring something [unique] to the American market.”
The owners find new designers on the trade show and fashion week circuits, and Libert maintains relationships with labels he’s followed for years. Store exclusives include styles by Italian label Lucio Vanotti, and French designer Celeste Mogado’s silk embroidered pumps are available for special orders. “If you want a pair, you have to wait three months,” Libert said.
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Without disclosing specific financial details, he noted that the store’s art pieces are the bigger revenue drivers. “But in terms of units, we sell as much art as fashion.”
And Please Do Not Enter has been in growth mode. In May, the retailer debuted a pop-up on Melrose Avenue (featuring a cheeky message on the exterior for its neighbors: “Hey B*tch I’m From Downtown”), and in June, a temporary store launched at the W in Washington, D.C.
The boutique courts new customers — and scores buzz — by hosting special events, launches and parties. Sometimes it even collaborates on unexpected publicity opportunities, such as in 2015 when Libert partnered with French artist Vincent Lamouroux on a public installation that turned Silver Lake’s abandoned Sunset Pacific Hotel all-white — even the palm trees.
“It went viral on social media, and that was good because the only sign we put on the motel was ‘Please Do Not Enter,’” Libert recalled. “It’s a different way to do PR instead of buying an ad.”