Humberto Leon’s Tory Burch pop-up shows a playful new side of the American power brand

Tory Burch’s colourful new Humberto Leon-designed pop-up on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles shows the ongoing evolution of the American brand, which now thrives on the unexpected

Inside Tory Burch Melrose Store with giant cat image on wallpaper
Humberto Leon’s interiors, including wallpaper using Walter Schels’ cat photographs, bring ‘a bit of cuteness slash horror’ to the Melrose Avenue Tory-Burch pop-up
(Image credit: Courtesy of Tory Burch)

‘There’s a side to Tory Burch you haven’t seen yet,’ says designer Humberto Leon – the co-founder of Opening Ceremony, former creative director of Kenzo, and also a restaurateur – as we discuss his interiors for the new Tory Burch pop-up store on Melrose Avenue. ‘She’s open to surprises for herself and for her fans. I think that's something exciting for people to see in this endeavour.’  

The pop-up, which is open until the end of the year, is a whimsical, treasure chest-like space that displays the idiosyncratic design sensibility Leon is best known for. There are vases in the shape of giant strawberries, baby-pink ceramic seats and shag carpets covering various surfaces, while a game of ‘cat and mouse’ is played out around the building, with repeating images of mice on the exterior and cats on the interior.

Tory Burch on working with Humberto Leon for LA pop-up

Tory Burch Melrose Store with pink plinths and cat wallpaper

(Image credit: Courtesy of Tory Burch)

The store is also a showcase for the new Tory Burch; a place that, as founder Burch herself tells me, is pointedly not ‘on brand’. As those who follow fashion will know, Tory Burch has undergone a noticeable, and exciting, creative shift in its past two seasons. The brand best known for its ‘preppy-chic’ style, exemplified by monogrammed ballet flats, leather tote bags and breezy tunics, alongside plays on classic hallmarks of American style, has suddenly become more modish, sleek and satisfyingly strange. With clothes that, as Burch says, ‘don’t take themselves too seriously’ and are ‘unusual and humorous’.

That shift is thanks largely to LVMH chairman, and Burch’s husband, Pierre-Yves Roussel taking over her role as CEO in 2019. For the first time since launching the company in 2004, Burch has been able to focus entirely on the creative side of the brand, rather than juggling it alongside the business needs of the company. ‘Having Pierre come on as CEO has allowed me the time to reinvent and innovate,’ she says. ‘Since I've taken over the design process, and only the design process, for the last five years, it’s been about embracing change and showing people a side of us that has always been there, but I've had more time to demonstrate [that]. Internally there was a lot of discussion around the concept of being ”on brand” and that wasn’t interesting to me because it inhibits creativity. So, over the last five years, I’ve smashed that concept, because what does that even mean? I just don't look at it that way.’

Tory Burch Melrose Store with pink plinths and giant cat images behind display units

(Image credit: Courtesy of Tory Burch)

For Leon, his design for the Melrose Avenue pop-up space needed to celebrate the sense of experimentation and innovation reflected in the clothes. When it came to conceptualising the space, he was first drawn to the black and white cat portraits by Walter Schels, which Burch had printed on skin-tight tops, pants and skirts for her Resort 2024 collection. Wanting to accentuate that detail, Leon enlarged Schels’ photographs and made them into wallpaper he used throughout the store. The result is something with ‘with a bit of cuteness slash horror’, Leon tells me. ‘When you see these images at a larger scale, there's something both humorous and horrific about them, and everything about that speaks to me.’

He also enlisted the Mexico City-based artist Aranza García to create a series of pale pink ‘chicklet’ ceramic chairs and complementary vases that look like oversized strawberries. In keeping with the cat theme and Burch’s use of texture in her Resort 2024 collection, Leon installed a cat tree-inspired shag carpet.

‘The whole space was about putting texture, arresting images and art into one space,’ says Leon. ‘And when I came to Tory with that idea, she loved it. She told me she was so excited because it’s not initially what she would have imagined, but I feel like it has all the sensibilities of everything she loves. So I felt like we had an immediate language together.’

Tory Burch Melrose Store with pink plinths and giant cat images behind display units

(Image credit: Courtesy of Tory Burch)

Burch echos the sentiment, saying, ‘I loved how Humberto took [previous collections] and had this cool nonchalance about the way he put it together. That is something that really interests me because it’s kind of how I see women dressing. It’s about taking the high-low approach and it worked quite beautifully.’

That high-low approach is also evident in the Tory Burch Resort 2024 pieces Humberto curated for the space. ‘We’re proposing different ways of wearing and styling clothing, making everything less precious, mixing runway with, for example, fleece,’ Leon says. ‘In your closet, everything is equal. The concert T-shirt you got when you were 18 is as valuable as the latest runway piece.’

The boutique will carry Burch’s Resort collection, as well as the first drop of her Spring 2024 collection. It will also retail a special Melrose capsule collection designed by Leon with T-shirts, sweatshirts and totes with abstract images of Schels’ animal portraits. It will be open through the end of 2024, while the Rodeo Drive Tory Burch flagship is renovated.

Tory Burch pop-up, 8483 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

Tory Burch Melrose Store with fluffy carpet and plinth and cat wallpaper

(Image credit: Courtesy of Tory Burch)
Writer and Wallpaper* Contributing Editor

Mary Cleary is a writer based in London and New York. Previously beauty & grooming editor at Wallpaper*, she is now a contributing editor, alongside writing for various publications on all aspects of culture.