Despite its seemingly combative moniker, Rodan vs. Griffith is a lesson in teamwork—the kind of good-natured communion seldom found in the world of fashion and retail. Its opening chords read like a great romance: Carol Rodan and Chris Griffith meet as students at the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia (she a pupil of sculpture, he taking up photography) and together become dedicated to a rarefied, wearable style despite tenures at retail giants (she Abercrombie & Fitch, Urban Outfitters, and Ralph Lauren, he Urban Outfitters and Mossimo for Target). They even weathered a "Soprano-ish" landlord and spectacular in-store events during their freshman effort, a boutique in Philadelphia.
Even their Los Angeles store's construction was a communal effort, as Ian Staffer (a friend and fellow Tyler School alum) helped create its interior—a rich, clean study in rosewood cabinetry and cream walls. A futuristic-industrial light fixture and the presence of the word "SAVE" spelled out in funereal carnations on the back wall points to the studied, near philosophical inspiration behind their collection.
Indeed, the store itself is a breed apart from some 3rd Street stores that seem stiff or overcrowded with options. Griffith himself admitted the clothes are intentionally a bit "anti-California" in their pared-down, washed-out simplicity, all European cut shirts, acid-washed jeans, and hand-braided dresses. In one corner sits a sheer racer-back tank and a cotton tunic, in another dwells a French-cut linen jacket and crisp button-down shirt. The store seems more an homage to the kind of California Rodan and Griffith fantasized about while living across the country—a rarefied, airy, tailored breed of sunny weather-wear. Its seams, however, are authentic California: Rodan vs. Griffith is entirely manufactured locally. "L.A. is overcooked or excessive in many ways," Griffith said. "We wanted to bring Rodeo Drive down to 3rd Street, but with a minimalist, relaxed aesthetic."
Rodan vs. Griffith, 8207 W. 3rd St. (between La Jolla and Sweetzer streets), Los Angeles; 323-951-9220; www.rodanvsgriffith.com.
A cult of personalities brings airy, minimalist chic to L.A.'s 3rd Street.