When news broke that OAK was finally making the hop from East coast to West coast, I’m pretty sure I wet my pants a little bit. The brand is known for making and finding and selling a mixture of goth, androgynous, upscale streetwear that come in black, black, some grays, black, white, black, silver, black, and black. Their stores in New York are nice and intimate and, while I have yet to visit their Downtown outpost, I have a feeling that it is somewhat New York-ish still.
Without any pretense (Surprisingly.), the brand popped up in a weird Mid-City location this week, blocks from where I live, like a bizarre white castle amidst historically Hasidic establishments and a smattering of design destinations. What does it mean? Well, the brand has gone full Los Angeles, opening up a sprawling L-shaped building that surely is going to be one of the more popular and successful retailers in town.
The store—at Beverly and Alta Vista, formerly an auto body shop—is obviously hyper contemporary in design, a both backward and forward leaning situation made to give you giggles. There is a stripped cat scratching post and a dirty grandma couch covered in plastic and giant succulents and OAK church candles and copy machine’d $12 zines dedicated to the city (which are not worth your time, really). Mirrors explain who they are (and that you can get a free shirt if you spend enough) and a few mannequins help to define one black item from the next. It’s a cool experience that, while attractive, will put anyone off in a way because it is intended to intimidate. As I walked around perusing racks, a man asked if a shirt came in a large. “Sorry,” the sales boy said. “That only comes in an extra small or a small.” Ouch.
Here’s the thing about OAK: it’s not for us. It’s not for 95% of Los Angelenos. It’s not for 95% of New Yorkers! It’s not for 95% of anyone. It’s for two types of people: really bizarre, super fashiony people who weigh seventy pounds and are somehow rich even though they have a questionable job and filthy rich persons who believe that OAK is the Forever 21 of black clothing. As we learned in our visit to the store, it’s mostly the latter: it was like Little Dubai, filled with sunglasses wearing persons speaking Arabic and grabbing garment after garment after garment, buying things that didn’t even fit. As we exited the parking lot, we noticed it was crammed with cars accompanied with bored chauffeurs and Maserattis. All black.
OAK is not for everyone aesthetically or financially. Yet, it is an experience. It’s an exercise in New York snobbery and culture infiltrating Los Angeles and, while I fucking abhor that shit, this is kind of refreshing. It’s amazing to see such an obnoxious something executed with such panache. It’s brilliant! The bizarre location is also a win. The design of the space—cloying interior design, et al—is nice too. If you are curious, stop in. If you can afford to shop here, more power to you—and I’m jealous. Just know that wearing so much black in Los Angeles will make you a very, very sweaty person.