Ep. 55: Rose Apodaca

Fashion journalist and design retailer Rose Apodaca wears many professional hats. She spent her youth immersed in the lively Los Angeles music and skateboarding scenes, then became a journalist covering city politics, gang detail and street tribes. After a stint as the west coast bureau chief of Women’s Wear Daily, she started A+R, a design retail business, with her partner Andy. Along the way she’s owned a few bars, written a few books, adopted a child and lived every day with an enviably stylish gusto. LISTEN:

 Photo by Alix Malka

Photo by Alix Malka

What is your earliest memory?

Running the streets. As early as age 5 or 6, I recall exploring areas, some just under a mile from our block, with the neighborhood kids—a liquor store near our elementary school for Popsicles and sneak peaks at Mad magazine (which my mom considered too crude); the Old Town Music Hall for a silent movie or shorts of The Little Rascals; expeditions through the thickets of trees at the recreation center. During summers at my grandparents’ home outside of Madrid, my little sister and I would be sent toddling off to the corner bodega to get a bottle of sparkling tonic and cheap red wine for the adults to enjoy over merienda, and we always also scored a treat from the elderly woman who owned the place and we called “tia.” My memories during those years were one of great freedom to roam, to explore, to spend endless hours dreaming.

It’s not my earliest collective memory, but it’s the one that pops up now, particularly as my husband (whose childhood was equally freewheeling growing up in Wales and the Lake District of England) and I strive to enable our 7-year-old daughter to experience flights of imagination and independence.

How do you feel about democratic design?

Whether by “democratic design” you mean accessibility by way of price or production and distribution, the crux is the same: good design is good design. The best intentions at democratic design can be undermined if too many corners are cut in the name of price. Which, in fact, is one reason why the best price-conscious design can be such a remarkable feat. Case in point is the safety pin. An American mechanic invented it in the mid-1800s; a forerunner was created by the Greeks 7 centuries earlier—both originating, no less, where democracy was championed and originating, respectively. How’s that for democratic design?

   
  
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  A roots rock and vintage enthusiast, especially during the early- mid-1980s, Rose’s three regular swing dance partners including friend Bernard Serrano. The pals here in 1984, when Rose was 16, in her bedroom at her parents’ Fountain Valley home.

A roots rock and vintage enthusiast, especially during the early- mid-1980s, Rose’s three regular swing dance partners including friend Bernard Serrano. The pals here in 1984, when Rose was 16, in her bedroom at her parents’ Fountain Valley home.

   
  
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    Despite “retiring” as a fashion editor, Rose has devoted time outside of A+R as both writer and creative director on fashion and beauty books, two of which hit the  The New York Times  bestseller list ( A to Zoe  at #13 and  Your Beauty Mark  at #2). Rose is collaborating with longtime friend Dita Von Teese again on a book on dressing like a femme fatale. 

Despite “retiring” as a fashion editor, Rose has devoted time outside of A+R as both writer and creative director on fashion and beauty books, two of which hit the The New York Times bestseller list (A to Zoe at #13 and Your Beauty Mark at #2). Rose is collaborating with longtime friend Dita Von Teese again on a book on dressing like a femme fatale. 

What’s the best advice that you’ve ever gotten?

Call it the “law of reciprocity” or the “Golden Rule,” the adage to treat another individual as I would like to be treated is one my mother impressed upon my sister and me. I’ve been teased about proselytizing this by partners and pals alike. Who doesn’t want to be treated with dignity, regards and consideration? I don’t consider myself religious or philosophical. But I do appreciate sensibleness and efficiency, and this maxim covers those fundamentals perfectly.

What’s your current favorite tool or material to work with?

Annually, I get a Moleskin daily planner. For 2018, Andy and Nina got me one with a hot pink cover and “Mi Vida Loca” embossed on the front.

How do you record your ideas?

My iPhone to voice record lines, leads and phrases for my writing or photos for everything else; or jotting them down in my date book or whatever scrap is handy and then transcribing them to my Mac laptop (I’m not a desktop kind of gal; I prefer tools ready to go).

What book is on your nightstand? 

After a slammed first quarter where I could only squeeze in magazine reading (albeit lengthy articles), I finally started cracking open my windfall from Santa. Right now alternating between John McPhee’s Draft No. 4: On the Writing Process, and Tina Brown’s, The Vanity Fair Diaries.

   
  
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  When their adoption became official a month before Valentine’s in 2011, Andy and Rose used the opportunity to announce Nina with a picture card coinciding with day of hearts. With photographer Ramona Rosales, the Griffith-Apodaca family has been sending out Valentine’s portrait postcards since, and this concept came about days after David Bowie’s passing as the Valentine’s 2016 card. 

When their adoption became official a month before Valentine’s in 2011, Andy and Rose used the opportunity to announce Nina with a picture card coinciding with day of hearts. With photographer Ramona Rosales, the Griffith-Apodaca family has been sending out Valentine’s portrait postcards since, and this concept came about days after David Bowie’s passing as the Valentine’s 2016 card. 

 A+R in Los Angeles / Photo by Ramona Rosales

A+R in Los Angeles / Photo by Ramona Rosales

   
  
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    Dita Von Teese and Rose at the burlesque star’s Los Feliz home “working” on The New York Times bestseller  Your Beauty Mark: The Guide to Eccentric Beauty . They are embarking on a second book, focusing on dress. Photo by Albert Sanchez and Pedro Zalba

Dita Von Teese and Rose at the burlesque star’s Los Feliz home “working” on The New York Times bestseller Your Beauty Mark: The Guide to Eccentric Beauty. They are embarking on a second book, focusing on dress. Photo by Albert Sanchez and Pedro Zalba

Why is authenticity in design important?

For the same reason that authenticity in life is important. It’s a matter of integrity, originality, even nonconformity. To be authentic is to be somewhat of a rebel among the herd of compliant consumers—and among the glut of people calling themselves designers. Who wants a knock-off anymore than they would want to be called a copycat? In fact, it’s this glut that has partly stimulated this need to brand as “authentic.” Invariably, not every designer or company tooting their “authentic” cred is actually the real McCoy. They’re just hoping no one will bother to Google the history or providence of their product.

The target for those of us who champion design? Do your research, and support the originals.

Favorite restaurant in your city?

For tacos and tequila, nothing beats a balmy evening al fresco at Salazar in Frogtown; for Italian; all made onsite, we love a spot at the bar at Aliemento in Silver Lake. For business lunches, A+R’s go-to in downtown is Officine Brera and for catering Urban Radish.

In all honesty, though, the best place is home: my husband Andy is a legend among our friends and staff for the gorgeous food he painstakingly, innately executes—from sushi to fish pies to mezze. My Spanish family and friends still talk about all the times he superseded their (initially dismissive) expectations on the seafood-rabbit paellas he orchestrated for birthdays and weddings (they are epic and not a kernel of rice left on the pan). He should have been a career chef. Thankfully, he was not. I don’t think I could have married into that life.

 In conversation with designer Cristian Zuzunaga

In conversation with designer Cristian Zuzunaga

 A+R in Los Angeles / Photo by Ramona Rosales

A+R in Los Angeles / Photo by Ramona Rosales

What might we find on your desk right now?

As I’m readying for my next book project (on fashioning the femme fatale, my second book with long-time pal Dita Von Teese), I’m organizing my home office and this means that, right now, my desk is a staging space for the great purge and re-arranging of 2018: piles of invites, receipts and documents that demand vetting; a box filled with an African beaded necklace, 3 dead watches and a sterling silver earring from Taxco without a post, all destined for repair at the downtown jewelry district; several ceramics I’ve tired of that need bubble wrapping for storage (we collect ceramics and, inevitably, there is not enough house or head space for all of it). And don’t even get me started on the stacks of beauty and fashion books under the desk, which I will finally be able to line up on the new wall cabinets arriving one of these days…

Who do you look up to and why?

I’ve counted friends of a wide-range of ages, including some are upwards of 3 decades older than me. So Andy has long ribbed me for “collecting glamorous old people.” They are mavericks, all with wonderfully rich lives. There is much to learn from their triumphs and miscalculations. As I reach 50 (May 24), I’m increasingly appreciating them more—particularly for getting up each day, swiping on their lipstick and going about living with as much charisma and purposefulness, creativity and curiosity as ever. And they continue to insist on being as fabulous as they can still muster doing it. It is a life by design with a dedication to joie de vivre.

 Rose and her husband, Andy Griffith. Photo by Jim McHugh

Rose and her husband, Andy Griffith. Photo by Jim McHugh

What’s your favorite project that you’ve done and why?

My favorite project ever? There are too many to choose and for different reasons! Today, as I came upon photos of Nina when she was born and, also from that same summer of 2010, the California Biennial, I’ll go with that. I was just off writing and creative directing (and self-publishing) my second book which overlapped with my third book which, along with running A+R, proved full time enough. Another all-encompassing project underway was ensuring the birth mom in our adoption process kept on the straight and narrow, a feat of patience and focus on my part akin to herding cats. So when the biennial panel called with an invitation to serve as curator of the fashion category, of course, I said “yes.” Why it remains among my favorites is the leeway I had from the host Pasadena Museum of California Art. I focused on the nascent “slow fashion” scene, which was getting ink in other parts of the world but clearly happening in Los Angeles with jewelry, clothing and footwear. The 10 designers under the spotlight were neither nobodies without a business nor were they particularly known outside of certain circles. Some had left lucrative positions or retailers in the interest of being able to design and manufacture according to their own more deliberate methods or whims. But, in exchange, they had businesses viable enough to support themselves and their families. Organizers and my incredible fellow curators (Frances Anderton! Louise Sandhaus!) patiently and enthusiastically allowed me to claim much of the museum with these incredible installations by the designers, which I so enjoyed being a part of. The PMCA also let me take the lead on the opening party, and it was a rousing turnout, apparently their largest yet.

What are the last five songs you listened to?

“Friendship (Is a Small Boat in a Storm” by Chicano Batman (album “Freedom is Free”  2017)
“Panic in Detroit” by David Bowie (album “Aladdin Sane” 1973)
“Hey Good Lookin’” by Hank Williams (single 1951)
“Sexaholic” by El Grupo Sexo (album “Up Periscope” 1985”)
“Rollerskate” by Blanca Apodaca (album “Butterfly Core” 2008)


More about Rose at roseapodaca.com and follow her on Instagram. You can also follow A+R on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Shop at aplusrstore.com.


Special thanks to Tai Navares and Alex Perez for editing this episode.
Music in this episode courtesy of El Ten Eleven—hear more on Bandcamp.
Shoutout to Jenny Rask for designing the Clever logo.