Maimoun’s Los Angeles Store Is a Place To Gather, Shop, and Be Inspired
Since 2016, online retailer Maimoun has stocked some of the most exciting breakthrough labels. Now, founder Mina Alyeshmerni has finally opened her first brick-and-mortar store here in Los Angeles. Here’s a look inside.
The first clue that there’s something special about Maimoun hits you right when you step through the front door. It’s clean and modern but aptly cozy. It’s filled with light; floor-to-ceiling glass windows create the sensation that the space extends beyond its frame. But most importantly, it’s welcoming. We receive immediate greetings from Mina Alyeshmerni, who founded the multi-brand online boutique in 2016; she welcomes us as if it were her own house. Which is the point. In Farsi, “mehmoon” translates to the social gathering of people, and at the core of any mehmooni party is abundant hospitality.
“I’m Iranian,” Mina tells me. “My parents came here after the revolution, and so, I kind of grew up around an atmosphere where they were doing a lot of hosting, inviting people over to their place. To me, I think it was their way of reconnecting with what they had lost, which is their community in Iran. [They’d invite] Iranian poets; they’d invite artists and singers and musicians. So there was a lot of gathering and getting together and rebuilding our culture.”
Creating this sort of environment at Maimoun – an environment where you’ll want to gather, shop, and be inspired – meant thinking beyond the basics. In the main space, walls lined with clothing racks curve like the earpieces of a stethoscope on either side. In the middle, a low cinderblock coffee table is perfectly composed with books and accessories – hinting at the exceptional taste of the host. Around the table, poufs lends a casual note to the space while offering visitors a place to curl up for a closer look.
But let’s not forget, gatherings are about the people and the storytelling. All around me, I find familiar names. Perusing their work in person feels a lot like meeting an online friend in real life for the first time. For me, shopping for these under-the-radar brands has always been a scroll-and-buy experience; but here, I’m surrounded by talents I’ve admired through my screen. There’s Jenia Kim (of namesake brand, J.Kim) and the petal-shaped cutouts that define her work – the fabrics and silhouettes she uses to harken back to her Koryo-saram lineage.
In the adjacent space, there’s more to explore: the prints and patchworks of Rave Review, helmed by Swedish founders Josephine Bergqvist and Livia Schück. There’s Lucille Thièvre with her skin-revealing slashes, ultra-feminine cut-outs, and body-conscious designs created in collaboration with other artists. This is especially evident in the details she embellishes her pieces with. “She’s really amazing,” Mina says, pulling a white top with a button-festooned shirtfront. “She works with a glass designer to collaborate on the buttons of the pieces.”
Also on the shelves: Puppets and Puppets’ signature black bag adored with a sculpture of a chocolate-chip cookie, which has reached somewhat of a celebrity status in the bag world. (The banana iteration is there, too.) Wow! I didn’t expect it to be so hyper-realistic. And that’s really what’s so wonderful about having Maimoun in Los Angeles. With its brick-and-mortar store, Maimoun is continuing to do what it’s always done so well online: offering a chance for emerging designers to get their goods noticed. Read below to find out more about Maimoun’s beginnings and Mina’s vision.
This interview has been edited for style and clarity.
Tell me a little bit about your background; How did you first start Maimoun?
I was working in costume design and personal shopping at Barneys, and I was coming across a lot of young designers that didn’t really have a home. I was also really big on Tumblr, coming across art, web art, and things like that. I also just really love the internet; to me, it’s kind of like the wild, wild west. That was also the time when the cookie cutter websites weren’t really out there like Squarespace and Wix. People were creating these really weird, funky websites. To me, it was the best of both worlds – online and then also curating, which is what I love.
What started your love for fashion in particular?
Me and my sister, we’re 13 months apart. We were kind of a package deal with, like, being flower girls for people’s weddings. What was so great about it was that my grandma would sew our dresses for these weddings. A lot of it involved getting to design how we wanted the sleeves to look, what we wanted the dresses to look like, what shade of pastel we wanted the fabric to be. She would give us a lot of creative control, and I really enjoyed it.
This was super early on, then?
Yeah! I was maybe four years old, and it continued up until the age of seven or eight. We would constantly get booked!
So, what year did you start the website then – and what made you decide to do it? Did you have an “aha” moment?
It kind of came pretty organically. So, 2015 was when I first started ruminating on it […] I had this Word document, and it was titled, “Store.” Anytime I had an idea for who I wanted to carry in the store or even how the packaging would look or ideas for names or anything like that, I would just put it in this one document together. I reached the point with that document where there was literally nothing else I could add. I loved where I was with it. […] And I don’t even think when I was making the document that my plan was to create a store. I think I was just kind of dreaming.
So, what did you do? How did you take that first step?
It took a lot of encouragement from friends of mine who are in that world. At the time, a lot of my friends were in web design or something related to the internet. It was really funny that that happened, but it really kind of encouraged the whole process alone because I felt like I knew who to bounce the ideas around with.
How many brands do you carry now?
About 60, if not more. Between 60 and 70, which is crazy, but I love it. If I come across a collection or a designer that I love, it’s like, I have to find a home for you. Whether it’s on consignment, whether it’s made to order, or whether we’re selling purchase orders, I try to envelope as much of that as possible.
What do you look for in a designer? What’s that thing that makes you think, “OK, that’s something I want to carry”?
A lot of it is just a feeling – having a gut reaction to what I’m seeing. I would say that’s the more figurative response. In terms of a more pragmatic answer, I’d say, I’m really looking for a designer who has a very unique voice from season to season or collection to collection. They have a continuous thread, where they really know who they are as a designer, because you come across a lot of designers who are creating one collection that looks totally different from another collection. […] But you know, I mean, designers are always creative. They can always jump around, but having some sort of continuous outlook or their own style is helpful.
What are some independent brands that you’re excited about right now?
One of them is Nadair Asghari. He does these bleach paintings and prints them onto shirts and things like that. Rave Review is definitely another – it’s our first season with them and already we can’t keep them in the store. Another designer is J.Kim. We’ve had her since almost the beginning. She has a strong sense of who she is as a designer, and we appreciate that. SC103 is another designer we love who plays with a lot of upcycled and deadstock materials, but they also just have such a unique voice in what they do and who they are. I personally love them and wear their pieces a lot.
That’s the case with a lot of up-and-coming designers – they’re always trying to do things differently from some of the more established brands.
I know – and you kind of see the trickle-up effect and the trickle-down effect. It’s amazing how the web came along and democratized everything in terms of even coming across designers and building your skill set. People are learning how to crochet from YouTube …
And TikTok …
And TikTok, yes. There’s a lot of information sharing; we’re living in a pretty amazing time.
Definitely. So, what does being in Los Angeles mean to you?
I mean, I grew up here – in some sense of the word. My grandmother, aunts and uncles, a lot of my family is up here, so I spent all my summers out here in California in the valley. So it’s kind of like a homecoming. But I also think that LA has its own rhythm. And I don’t think it’s the first to come to mind when people think of “underground” or “indie.” Yeah. But I’d say, for the past 10 years, it’s totally become that […] The city has become a breeding ground for a lot of young talent and artists.