Beverly Hills


Embracing a feminine idea of sophistication

When I moved to Los Angeles in 2001, high on my to-do list was this item: find a shop that carries Comme des Garçons. I had just spent two years working closely with the fashion house on an exhibition for Harvard’s Graduate School of Design (“Comme des Garcons: Out of the Extraordinary”) and, because of that immersion in all things Comme, I had become a diehard devotee of Rei Kawakubo and her brainy, conceptual fashion. Little did I know that unlike New York, or even Boston, Los Angeles was not really a city where Comme des Garçons and its ilk were embraced. Juicy Couture sweatsuits were de rigueur in 2001, spotted endlessly on the streets of Beverly Hills and the escalators of Barneys and Neiman Marcus.

“‘Mameg carries all the interesting designers,’ they said.”

When I inquired about where I could find Comme des Garçons, one name—Mameg—was offered by all. Art, museum, and fashion people alike. “Mameg carries all the interesting designers,” they said. “Mameg is an amazing place.” And, always, these endorsements were followed by “Mameg means breast in Farsi.” I must find it, I said to myself. Back then it was pre-GPS, pre-Google maps, so I looked up the address—back then on Montana Avenue in L.A.’s Brentwood neighborhood—and jotted it down in my notebook. After several failed attempts to find the legendary Mameg, using a trusty and well-worn Thomas Guide, I gave up for a while. It was too hot to wear those clothes in L.A. anyway.

“What makes Mameg so special?”

There are special places that friends share with each other or, if the friend is famous, she might share it via a published list of “secret addresses” or “best kept secrets.” Mameg is one of those special places. What makes Mameg so special? For me, it’s about much more than the clothes. It’s a unique combination of warmth, openness, and joie de vivre that comes from its proprietress, Sonia Eram, and from the atmosphere she has created at Mameg. It’s a place that is the sum of its parts: beautiful clothes, great architecture, convivial conversation, and good friends.

I never go to Mameg just to shop. I go to hang out with Sonia and her sister, Ari. I often spend a whole afternoon with them. Trying on a few Cosmic Wonder dresses, a pair of Viktor & Rolf shoes, a Charles Anastase coat, or some Mina Perhönen leggings. Relaxing on the comfortable sofa and visiting with the other Mameg “regulars” who are sure to drop in throughout the day. At a certain point in the afternoon, a bottle of prosecco is produced. Toasts are made. Experiences are shared. We talk about books, movies, architecture, art, exhibitions, ideas. And sometimes even boys.

“The longer one stays in the space, the more one sees. And learns.”

Some of my best L.A. friendships were made at Mameg. This is due in no small part to Sonia’s warmth, intelligence, and sophistication. She is like a matchmaker who has the innate talent of putting interesting people together. At Mameg, she has created an environment that invites visitors to kick back and relax.

The shop space, designed by the architects, Johnston Marklee, is open and airy, with the display areas for the clothes located against the walls. Wallets, bags, shoes, jewelry, objects, and, often, beautiful sculptures by some of Sonia’s favorite young artists are assembled and displayed on high white shelves with the exacting eye of an excellent curator. Perfectly edited, extraordinary, and evocative. Hanging racks line another wall.

The longer one stays in the space, the more one sees. And learns. The shop’s layout creates a living room at the center of the space. There is Sonia’s oversized wood desk, a pair of comfortable sofas, some ottomans by the Swiss designer, Daniel Heer, books and magazines, and a lovely little terrace.

“A visit to Mameg is always a discovery.”

Sonia uses her incisive curatorial eye to choose the clothes for Mameg. She doesn’t hold onto labels if their time has come and gone, which means that a visit to Mameg is always a discovery. She is the first to carry, and champion, new designers. She chooses them because of the strong idea or aesthetic at the core of their work that she recognizes will be carried forward as they develop their lines. They are never flashes in the pan. I discovered Cosmic Wonder and Mina—two of my personal favorites—at Mameg. And I always go back there to look at their new pieces and to discover other talented designers.

By now, you know that I found Mameg. But it wasn’t on a shopping trip. It was on a crisp autumn evening back in 2003 or 2004. Hussein Chalayan had just given an electrifying talk at UCLA’s architecture school, and the post-lecture dinner was a short drive away from campus. At Mameg. Finally, I thought, I will figure out where this place is and see if it’s as special as everyone says it is.

I was not disappointed. The combination of the magic of Mameg, the warmth of Sonia, and the brilliance of Chalayan made that fall evening one to remember. I was teaching a seminar/workshop on fashion and architecture at SCI_Arc (the Southern California Institute of Architecture) at the time, and Mameg became my classroom, a place where I could bring architecture students to show them how fashion designers also think about construction, cladding, and housing the body.

I live in New York now, and I just can’t bring myself to shop for clothes here. To be honest, I haven’t really tried. Mameg and Sonia are only a six-hour flight away.


9970 Santa Monica Boulevard

Beverly Hills, CA 90212


Open from Monday to Sunday, 10:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m.