An Ingenious Alliance: Confederacy LA’s Ilaria Urbinati

When you walk into Confederacy — a Los Angeles boutique owned by Ilaria Urbinati, Danny Masterson, and Aly Mawji — you instantly feel inspired. Whether it’s the quality selection of designer clothing, accessories, and beauty products, the rotating display of artwork and photography, or lively in-store events, the space hosts an endless amount of creativity. The charming Ilaria, a celebrity stylist and former buyer for LA boutiques Satine and Milk, fills me in on her style influences and why every visit to Confederacy is truly a unique experience.

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What’s the story behind the boutique’s name? It’s named after one of our favorite books, A Confederacy of Dunces, which comes from the Jonathan Swift quote: “When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.” This is one of the truest things anyone’s ever said, ha ha. The word also means “an alliance,” which seemed fitting for Danny Masterson and I.

Why did you select Los Feliz as the location for your store, rather than the prime shopping rows on West 3rd Street, La Brea Avenue, or Robertson Boulevard? It was Danny’s idea. I had done Satine and Milk on West 3rd Street when there were hardly any stores. I have a definite aversion to saturated shopping areas; I think it’s important to fill a void. Danny really pushed Los Feliz/Silverlake, or “East Hollywood” as we keep trying to coin it, but it never catches on, ha ha! He pushed for that block we’re on specifically. I’m not even sure why, but I went with it — and it was the best thing we could’ve ever done.

All my customers from my aunt’s old store on Sunset Plaza who used to live around there have all moved to this area and now shop at Confederacy. And the locals have been so excited and grateful, I think they’re just stoked they don’t have to make the trek out to West Hollywood and Beverly Hills to do a little shopping.

What makes Confederacy a destination stop for both men and women? For one thing, we really have a little bit of everything. We try and provide the full experience, especially for the Westsiders so they can come and make an afternoon of it. You don’t want to drive in LA traffic for 45 minutes just to go to some rinky-dink hole-in-the-wall. We have the best of the current men’s designers (Ervell, Hamilton, Bastian, Geller, APC) and women’s designers (Alexander Wang, Boy by Band of Outsiders, Proenza, Lim, Vena Cava, PHI, Etro, and cool hard-to-find foreign lines like Future Classics and Devastee). We have art, books, and amazing accessories.

I do think the art is a big draw. First we had Julian Schnabel etchings, which really got the local art aficionados wetting their pants. Currently we have photographer Eric Ray Davidson: “The New York Times Fashion Week Photo Diary.” I can’t think of any body of work more befitting; the whole point is to meld art and fashion and commerce. And these photos really capture both the beauty and the sheer absurdity of the fashion industry, which we fully embrace at Confederacy. Eva Mendes hosted the opening of the show, and it was a great party. You might as well throw some good people, music, and cocktails in for good measure, right?

Cheers to that. What do you look for in a line that motivates you to carry it? Honestly, I just look for that I’m-jumping-up-and-down-and-I-have-to-have-it enthusiasm. If I’m not at least slightly hyperventilating or it’s not taking me back to some other time or place, forget it. What’s the point? There’s too much good stuff out there. Also from a commerce perspective, it’s one thing to ask people to like something, and a whole other thing to ask them to love it enough to spend their hard-earned money to own it — especially in this economy. The answer for us is not to go cheaper but to go with better quality, consistency, and just in general that dying-over-it-ness.

What are some of your favorite standout pieces currently in stock? I love, love, love the Proenza full bandage skirt in neon peach & white stripe that I wore to our GQ /Bastian Event this month. Everyone called the next day wanting it, which I fully take as a compliment, ha ha. I think Diego Dolcini is making the best heels out there — they could be the next Louboutin. The Rag & Bone yellow leather motorcycle jacket and their floral leggings, I would live in. Geller’s think soft linen-ish stripe button-ups should be owned by every Summer-seeking man. Gant is particularly great for this economy as it’s so cheap and so great — very 50s Outsiders. All the Rag & Bone men’s clothing is pretty bad-ass. And both the Opening Ceremony and APC oxfords are the most coveted men’s shoes in the store. I especially love the Opening Ceremony two-tone beige & yellow ones. And I’m especially proud of my collaboration with Rebecca Minkoff on her women’s apparel for Fall. WWD said it was as “if Bob Dylan & June Carter had a love child.”

I love the art and photography displayed throughout the store, as well as the brick walls and wooden telephone booth dressing rooms. What’s your design and layout inspired by? The decor was done by the amazing Ben Shulman of Shulman & Co. Our whole inspiration was based around a mix between Depression-era, Norman Rockwell-style Americana, and early Woody Allen New York. We wanted the phone booth dressing rooms because how annoying is it to have to get redressed to come out of the room and ask for a size? Our customers can just pick up the phone and it directs them to one of the staff. Mostly little kids use it though, and our staff answers “Disneyland?” It’s so cute.

What does the music playlist sound like during a visit to Confederacy? A mix by DJ Momjeans, a.k.a. Danny Masterson, perhaps? It ranges between DJ Momjeans (especially for our events), old blues from Fats Waller, Bessie Smith, etc., and lots of Dylan, Joe Jackson, Guthrie, and The Carter Fam. We’re definitely not blasting house music.

Who is your ultimate style muse? I have a lot; I’m definitely easily inspired. Hedi Slimane for sure, and early Winona Ryder/Tim Burton-era films. The 90s have always been big for me, whether it’s the film Clueless or Alicia Silverstone/Liv Tyler Aerosmith videos. Babe Paley, my grandmother (it’s definitely her fault we’re all in fashion in my family), and my mother’s old 70s looks — a good mix between tomboy and aristocratic. It’s quite a jumble. And I would say 70s-era Jane Fonda has always been a big one for me.

Where are some of your favorite places to shop in LA and elsewhere? Definitely The Way We Wore for high-end vintage and special occasions. Squaresville for thrifting. Nuyorica in Rome. The Cross in London. Steven Alan in Tribeca. Edith Machinist and Some Odd Rubies in the Lower East Side — half my wardrobe is from there, and the other half is from Confederacy, duh.

What can we expect next from Confederacy? We are going to be opening a café very soon! It’ll be amazing, with coffee from Brooklyn’s Gimme! Coffee and locally homemade pastries. Our outdoor courtyard will be for tables. It will be heaven. It looks like a shrunken version of the wedding scene in The Godfather out there — or at least I like to pretend it does.

Photos: Eric Ray Davidson

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