Please Do Not Enter, despite its foreboding name, is a downtown Los Angeles boutique that invites clients to take their time exploring its array of wares. With the tagline “A smart collection for open-minded men,” its stock is defined by its eclecticism: contemporary art and design, Peruvian fashion labels, leather accessories crafted from a specific invasive species of toad, all meticulously curated according to the tastes of two veteran art collectors.
“People spend hours here moving from one object to another,” says Nicolas Libert, a specialist in art-related and high-end architectural real estate who, with interior designer Emmanuel Renoird, decamped from Paris a year-and-a-half ago with the specific mission of opening a hybrid retail-gallery space in burgeoning downtown L.A. Their vision was to establish a unique brand of luxury: pieces by emerging designers; quotidian objects elevated by a flare of eccentricity; items unlikely to be found anywhere else in L.A.
“Luxury for us is three things: rare, well-crafted and an experience,” says Libert. “Rare means hard to find; you can find big names on Rodeo, but you can also find Gucci in every airport in the world.” Please Do Not Enter’s location, like its name, gives the shop an additional layer of mystery. Historic, business-oriented downtown L.A., a universe apart from the shopping mecca of Beverly Hills, captivated the couple’s attention during their first visit there three years ago. “We were amazed by the architectural gems—it was kind of a dream,” Libert says.
One year ago this April, he and Renoird installed their space on the top floor of the PacMutual building, an early 20th century L.A. landmark. In celebration of their venture’s recent anniversary, they executed two grand gestures this spring. One was the move to a storefront on PacMutual’s street level, a higher-profile location that made room to exhibit large-scale pieces, including a solo exhibition of works by Arik Levy that opened in May. The other was the monumental Projection, a commission in which French artist Vincent Lamouroux transformed a crumbling abandoned motel on Sunset Boulevard in April into a ghost, painting its entirety—surrounding billboard, palm trees and all—in white. Libert refers to the installation as their “big birthday cake.”
The beguiling specter of Projection plays well with Libert and Renoird’s fascination with the mysterious, a mood they have tried to implement from the beginning. Please Do Not Enter originally opened as an appointment-only shopping experience, which turned out to be short lived. “It was impossible to keep that appointment-only policy” as their clientele expanded, Libert says. The store now runs on normal business hours and with its new storefront, has higher visibility. But despite the business model having changed, the sentiments behind the ever-changing inventory stays the same. Whether Please Do Not Enter remains a secret or not, its clients, as Libert says, “never know what to expect.”
Photos courtesy of Please Do Not Enter and Vincent Lamouroux © Guillaume Onimus