This is fun getting to know the creatives and brains behind the CB2 x Fred Segal Pool Party collection. Cheers to your second collaboration. The inspiration is Hollywood Hills, poolside in the seventies. Was that the idea from the start or did it evolve into that?
John Frierson [Fred Segal, President]: I think that was always our idea; something that we felt was really kind of deep Fred Segal. We’ve been here since 1961. We love the idea of the Hollywood Hills because our first store is on Crescent Heights right below Laurel Canyon. It was really connected to the scene in the seventies so that’s where we started.
Alice Ann Wilson [Brand Studio CAA-GBG, Chief Creative Officer]: When we first met we immediately hit it off with the [CB2] team in terms of ideating and thinking about what we wanted to achieve. As John said, Fred Segal has been such a part of the L.A. scene for so many decades, so it was fun to put a pin in the map of a different time that’s still very much alive about how people live today and sort of modernize it. That started from the first meeting … [And] there’s a lot of great architecture in the Hollywood Hills. We were able to think about architecture and indoor-outdoor living and how that really activates a space. From there the shapes and the forms of the collection really came to life and I think the sense of fun, too.
Who made the first move in this collaboration?
Ryan Turf [CB2, Managing Director]: I think that was me. I remember coming to L.A. a bunch when I was younger and going into the first Fred Segal store with my family and just thinking it was the coolest experience and I’ve always remembered it … You would have people like Mick Jagger and Farrah Fawcett sitting in line to buy jeans and that is the ultimate definition of a brand. That’s just cool. That excites me. That’s what it’s all about.
From the outside it seems like you guys are living your dream jobs. At what point in your career did you feel you hit your stride? At what age were you confident in what you were doing?
Ryan: I think it can take [time] to hit your stride. I mean for me in my twenties, I was not in my stride. I was pretty much a ski bum in my twenties. I was living in a trailer in Colorado skiing a lot. I think I’ve always had the passion for design and retail in me, but I don’t know if I knew it or fully expressed it at that time. It wasn’t really until later in my thirties that I think I hit that stride and really found my passion.
Alice Ann: I would say if you do what you love, you always will push through to the kinds of people who are also doing what they love and the circumstances that give back as much as you’re giving to your work. I think that’s kind of a guiding place to start from even when you’re young because that just makes it more exciting. Work is life and life is work. That’s how I feel. It takes a lot of your time and all of your energy and your passion so it might as well be something that you really want to be doing all the time.
Alice Ann and John, you’re a husband and wife team behind Fred Segal. What are the keys to working with a spouse?
John: We’ve worked on different projects together for years. It feels kind of… you said, “Life is work and work is life.” It’s not that separated. In fact, a lot of the time our friends or colleagues will say, “Did you guys talk about that?” And we’re like, “No, we didn’t. Actually, last night we did not talk about your project.” [Laughs] And they can’t believe it but we don’t actually talk about work all of the time so that’s one thing. We just live our lives which happen to be intertwined.
Alice Ann: I think making room for both and not getting too tied to what happened in your day. It can’t always be brought home in the evening. We have kids, so we have a really lively conversation going on in our house every night and we like to share a lot about what’s happened in our days when we’re working together. We try to focus on the really fun projects like this one. We’ll talk about this at home.
I hear there is a good story about the denim jacket you’re wearing, John.
John: This is my jacket from high school. I carried it around for a lot of years. I wore it in pretty good and it was pretty beat up. When I got the job at Fred Segal, we were getting ready to open the store and the guy from Levi’s said, “Hey, can I take that jacket?” and I was like, “Sure,” and he took it and put the Fred Segal original logo on it which was amazing. It melded me to the job. It was like getting a tattoo.
Ryan: I mean, the fact that you can fit into your high school jacket is pretty cool … This guy’s in shape.
What would you consider a big break or moment when things just clicked in your career?
Ryan: I think when I found CB2, to a certain extent. I’ve been there for 15 years. I think it took awhile to hit that stride or that aha moment. About four years ago we partnered with Kravitz Design, Lenny Kravitz’s design firm, and I remember making the decision to do it and a lot of people thought it was the wrong decision at that time. Is it a celebrity grab, is it not authentic? But he had a design firm and he had reached out to us and I thought, “It is authentic. He’s a fan.” I remember thinking, “We’re this little brand, let’s partner with this rock star and just do a really cool collection.” I feel like when we made the decision to do that it felt right and we haven’t looked back since.
So you really trusted your gut on that one.
Ryan: Yes. I think brands are all about gut.
Alice Ann: I run a studio and a big moment of going with my gut was walking out of a traditional branding agency world and finding a place, a space and a team to work with that really believed in where brands are going. Ryan and his whole team have a really good sense of that. I think great brands and brands that feel good are ones that are really authentic all the way through. How you do one thing is how you do everything, and so starting a new studio that was in an unusual space and really growing that with great clients has been a part of this.
What makes a successful collaboration between two strong brands?
Ryan: Mutual respect. Both brands think pretty highly of each other and I think it’s all about passion for retail, passion for design. At CB2 we’re so in love and passionate about the design of product and then obviously there’s so much that goes with that and retail. Fred Segal is really one of the grandfathers of retail in my opinion, or at least experiential retail. That’s where it’s heading now but back in the sixties these guys we’re doing it, and that’s what’s cool.
John: And when you talk about passion, what we saw at CB2 is the ability to not just do great design but the design is really evocative. It actually tells a story. More than anyone I’ve ever seen, they’re able to really story tell with design. For us that was really important because we didn’t want to just make product. I mean, we love product, but we wanted to tell the story and I think that’s been what was incredible about what these guys did.
Alice Ann: We’re all pretty likeminded about putting the experience first because at the end of the day no matter how things turn out, it’s the experience you remember and I think that shows in the way the collection turned out. It looks fun, it feels fun, it has a lot of optimism about it, and that was the best it could have been for us.
What is CB2 doing right that gets an employee to stay for 15 years?
Ryan: CB2 is part of Crate & Barrel which has been around for over 50 years. Crate & Barrel is really the definition of a brand. Brands and retailers come and go all the time, especially now. From its aesthetic to its logo and down to its stores, it has really defined being a brand for so long. I think CB2 coming out of that [18 years ago] gave it a natural soul and heritage but it was able to build its own identity. That’s a big part of what keeps people like me and a lot of people who have been there longer than I have. I think it’s the passion for brand and retail.
What advice do you have for anyone who wants a career in design?
Ryan: I would just say passion. I know that’s easy but as I was saying earlier, maybe I had it all my life but it really didn’t come out until later, so I think it’s really about having that passion in the design world for design. The way retail and the world is moving is so fast, data-driven and technical, so I think in the design world make sure you still have that passion for the power of design. The simplicity of design. That’s how I found where I am.
Alice Ann: If you think you have a passion for it — even just that you admire design or it moves you or it’s a part of your world — I would say do it. I don’t know that many designers who aren’t happy with that as a life’s work. I learn so much from young designers. It’s such a shared language, it’s something everybody understands. I would say don’t hesitate.
John: Don’t wait. I think a lot of young people think they have to build a resume or portfolios. Don’t do a real job. [Laughs] Don’t wait. You have to believe in yourself and do it but don’t wait because it doesn’t get easier. When you’re older you have more responsibilities and you have a family and you have a mortgage. When you’re younger, you can go for it.
When you’re looking for inspiration, where do you go and what do you do?
John: I don’t think I’ve ever had a big idea that didn’t happen within two minutes of waking up.
Ryan: Two minutes of waking up?
John: I mean, I can think and do stuff the rest of the day but for big ideas it really has to do with the kind of processing that happens at night, so I try to leave time in the morning. I don’t go straight to my phone… to let it happen a little bit, you know?
I love that. Quiet time in the morning. Any other ways you get the creative juices flowing?
Alice Ann: Trying to make your own city or place where you live feel like a travel experience. I try to live in the moment and that helps to kind of see things really clearly and meet cool people that can also inspire creative ideas.
If you’re present in your daily life you really do see more beauty and don’t necessarily have to travel halfway around the world for inspiration.
John: In L.A. there’s so much visual impact. You see so many things in a day. You just have to be open to seeing them.
Ryan: You go on these great trips when you’re in design, but I’m almost more inspired when I travel on vacation with my family than I am for work. You go somewhere to research or buy product and obviously there’s inspiration there, but I’ve found I get more ideas when I’m on vacation and I think it’s just because I’m more relaxed and just pulling away from work a bit.
What moment in your job do you feel that fire inside of you? What part of the process lights you up the most?
Alice Ann: I think it’s when you have an idea you fall in love with. Either by yourself or with a team you’re working with. I remember when we were in [CB2’s] showroom wrapping up the first collection and we all started talking about the idea of white as being a really cool foundation for this collection. When you have an idea that seems that big to you in a moment, you just have to keep falling in love with it because it takes awhile to make it happen. But it’s moments like that that I just feel like it doesn’t get better.
John: We all lit up. There was like one little, white stool and we were all looking at it going, “Oh my God, this is what we have to do.” We all really lit up but it took us a year to do all this …
Ryan: It was Chicago in the winter and we were talking L.A. pool parties, remedies and we all wanted to be there.
Alice Ann: Suddenly we saw a world of white … White is such an iconic part of the Fred Segal façade. There were so many reasons why it felt like a big idea. It also made it really a dreamy, chic look and turned out to be a really great canvas to put all the Fred Segal pops of color into, so it was cool.
Best entertaining advice?
Alice Ann: Have a little sense of adventure with entertaining. We like to make food and invite guests to be part of that fun mess. It’s not just about presenting good food. It’s about being a part of it. A good bocce game. Anything that you can still hold this [drink] … Letting people be a part of what you’re trying to create is a cool part of entertaining.
Who are your style icons?
John: I grew up playing rock ‘n’ roll in a band, so I always look to music because artists make it their own. It’s really personal, the way they wear things and what they do with them. Earth, Wind & Fire, the way Serge Gainsbourg wears a jacket or the way John Lennon wears a t-shirt or the way some guy in the bar playing bass wears his jeans. That was always the thing that got me is that they make it their own… with attitude.
Ryan: The Steve McQueens, the Paul Newmans, but I guess it’s more about the simplicity and the confidence they wore the clothes. It’s owning what you’re wearing. Classic but with confidence.
If you could have a drink with anyone, who would it be?
Ryan: Mick Jagger.
John: We had a store over on Crescent Heights in the seventies and there was a whole scene in Laurel Canyon which was the Hollywood and L.A. creative community. They would stay out all night and roll down to Fred Segal in the afternoon so that’s part of our mythology. I would want to go back there and be at Frank Zappa’s house in 1970 by the pool.
Alice Ann: I’d be next door at Joni Mitchell’s house.
John: It was all happening there. That’s part of the L.A. mythology.
Visit The CB2 Blog for more behind-the-scenes footage from the indoor VIP pool party at Fred Segal’s retail space in West Hollywood for the launch of the Spring 2018 collection.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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