Perfect Pairing: Smythe + Roots
Photo Credit: Jon Myles
Photo Credit: Ilich Mejia
Photo Credit: Ilich Mejia
Though Diane Bald spends her days at the Roots Genuine Leather Factory in Toronto, the Canadian company’s design director has a long-running California sensibility that she first cultivated at Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) before graduating in 1983. She landed at Roots in 1985, after a stint for Andree Putman in Paris where she was part of the design team for the American Yves Saint Laurent shops and later oversaw work on New York’s Morgans Hotel, the first boutique hotel Putman did for Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell. Now, years after creating the Roots Home collection and working on product and bag design, Bald has returned to her old stomping grounds with a store in Venice and a new leather collaboration. For fall, she teamed up with Smythe to create a limited edition jacket, the Smythe Bomber by Roots. The design is based on a Smythe pattern, made with Roots Bruschetta leather, and crafted in Toronto. Here she discusses the joint venture with Smythe and her company’s new Abbot Kinney roots.
By Elizabeth Varnell
What sparked the collaboration with the Smythe team?
I’ve known the Smythe girls for a while and always wanted to do a project with them. Since they’re known throughout Canada and around the world for their fabulous outerwear, we thought collaborating for our 40th anniversary would be the perfect fit.
What are the elements of the perfect bomber jacket and how did you incorporate them?
I asked my design girls about their thoughts on the perfect bomber, and they think its all about proportion, leather quality and hardware; a small body with distressed leather that drapes and big hardware!
Do you have plans to continue working with the Smythe team?
Smythe is celebrating their 10th anniversary this year so maybe another collaboration is in the air!
You opened a Venice concept store in June. How did you select the location?
My brother-in-law, artist Jim Budman, has lived in Santa Monica for the past 20 years. He has a studio in Venice and is part of the local community. He saw a rental sign on a small 1921 house and called me immediately—when he saw this space he knew it was the perfect place for us. I came to see the space and fell in love with it immediately.
Was it challenging to work on a 1921 house?
The structure was in rough shape, so we replaced a lot and added some roof ties to bring it up to date. The most substantial change we made was to open the façade by putting in an accordion door, which allowed the space to have a real indoor/out feeling. We always like to maintain the integrity and fabric of a neighborhood and we used Mid-century furniture mixed with vintage pieces from Roots Home as well as some new pieces designed specifically for this store. It blends well with the Abbot Kinney neighborhood.
And you worked with Budman on the shop?
Jim and I have created many beautiful spaces together and it was natural for us to collaborate on this space in his neighborhood. We wanted to keep the integrity of the structure, but give it a modern twist. We wanted the shop to feel like you were walking into someone’s home. We opened up the ceiling in the front and reused a lot of the lathe that we took out of the plaster walls and ceiling to clad the bar in the back and some interior walls.
What are you favorite Venice haunts?
I love Abbot Kinney, and it was so nice to feel like a local when I was building the store. GTA’s breakfast toasts are amazing and I’m a big fan of the Axe lunch bowls. Shima, the tiny sushi restaurant, is also a jewel. For an afternoon pick-me-up of fresh pressed juices, I head to Tom’s. Salt Air has the best lobster rolls and pea toasts. Gjelina’s rooftop is a spectacular place to take in the sunset.
Pictured: Diane Bald
Photo by Ilich Mejia