Global Shopper: A Stylish Curiosity Shop in East Hollywood

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Where the Cool Kids Go

CreditBrad Torchia for The New York Times


In a still-scrubby section of East Hollywood, near the intersection of North Virgil and Normal Avenues and just next door to Vinny’s Barber Shop, sits Virgil Normal. Or so it has of late. Before that, it was a moped shop called Choke, where Shirley Kurata, a stylist and costume designer, and Charlie Staunton, a freelance designer, used to meet with like-minded moped enthusiasts to retool their bikes. All good things must come to an end, and so, in 2015, did Choke. Reluctant to say goodbye, Ms. Kurata and Mr. Staunton didn’t. They rented it instead.

“We found out the space was available at the end of April and signed the lease the first of May,” Ms. Kurata said. “We opened up the store in June.”

It is, broadly speaking, a men’s clothing shop with a skateboard-friendly vibe — neighborhood kids come by to skate down the mostly untrafficked block — though, it’s “not a skate shop, really,” Mr. Staunton said. “We have one skateboard from Ken Kagami and one from Christian Louboutin.” It stocks unisex options as well, including T-shirts and hoodies also by Mr. Kagami, a Japanese artist who burlesques Snoopy and Garfield.

Ms. Kurata and Mr. Staunton fill the store with a mix of their own fascinations. Ms. Kurata, who has worked on films for Kenzo and Prada, and styles Pharrell Williams for “The Voice,” goes vintage-hunting for the old and worthy; she is friendly with the Mulleavy sisters of Rodarte, whose fashion-show styling she works on, so there is a selection of their “Radarte” T-shirts and sweats.

There are shirts and hats from the Brain Dead designer collective and a sunny shot of vitamin C from bright orange street wear by Carrots. But there are also local ceramics, collections of vintage “Peanuts” bric-a-brac and an ever-changing mix of ephemera. A shed in the backyard, called Café Gams, has become an occasional gallery; friends have dropped by to ply their individual trades, whether that is recording music or putting on a “she-chimp” suit and painting signs on commission for $25 a pop.

Presiding over it all on any given day is Mr. Staunton, who designed the store’s T-shirt, which has found its way to Mr. Williams’s back. Like so many other cool things, it was also seized upon immediately by discerning Japanese dudes. Mr. Staunton now sells the shirts to Tokyo stores including Estnation and Beauty & Youth United Arrows, and Popeye Magazine, a Japanese style bible, included Virgil Normal in a guide to Los Angeles that continues to send new acolytes to its door.

More locally, so does Sqirl, the city’s reigning temple of local jam (in October, the restaurant literally wrote the book). “We get a lot of that crowd,” Mr. Staunton said.

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