The $55,000 Backpack

Article excerpt

Byline: Isabel Wilkinson

L.A.'s coolest new boutique rolls out art-world collaborations, starting with Damien Hirst.

During the couture shows in Paris in January, the runways featured feminine dresses by Raf Simons for Christian Dior and Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel. But there was one name you wouldn't expect to see in the middle of all of it: Damien Hirst. "I'm wearing one in Paris, the one with all the pills," said Paola Russo of her Hirst-decorated backpack. "And people are freaking out."

Russo is the mastermind behind Hirst's collaboration with The Row, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen's fashion line, which commissioned the contemporary artist to decorate 12 black patent, Nile crocodile leather backpacks for retail. The bags, covered in miniature versions of Hirst's famous spot paintings or in painted pills, debuted at Russo's new Los Angeles store, Just One Eye, and online at justoneeye.com. They went on sale for $55,000 apiece in early December and, according to a salesperson, are almost entirely sold out.

When a customer pulls up at Just One Eye--located in Howard Hughes's old art-deco headquarters on the flat, sunny streets of Hollywood--a suited man opens the car door and introduces himself. He remembers who has been there before. Inside, a thin hallway leads through a maze of high-ceilinged rooms, each brimming with fashion, art, and furniture hand-picked by Russo and her team of buyers. There's a Takashi Murakami painting next to a rack of Proenza Schouler jackets and furs from The Row, a vintage Hermes ring on a shelf near rare art books, and an uncomfortable-looking $22,000 Blackman Cruz porcupine bean-bag chair next to lacy Valentino. …