When I first met my friend Christopher Mitchell, I had no idea he had worked as an animator, writer and art director on some of my favorite shows and movies: Spongebob, Dextor’s Laboratory, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and even Ferngully. Not long after that I was let in on a secret…he was going to open up a shop, called Q Pop, filled with things I love. We’re talking Japanese brands like Super Lovers, Sex Pot Revenge, Swimmer and Algonquin, all at the same price if you were to buy it in Japan. That is a huge deal! Talk to anyone who buys brands in the states, and you'll find the cost is almost always higher because it’s so difficult to acquire them.
The shop is colorful, but not overwhelmingly so. The bold red exterior immediately makes the shop stand out. The appropriate style of the interior design is all thanks to the handiwork of Justin Thompson. He created false walls, allowing for inset wall displays back-lit by different colored lights; truly unique and beautiful ways to display the knick-knacks of the shop. The center merch island is actually in the shape of the Q that is the mascot for Q Pop.
Despite his busy schedule, with opening a new shop and all, Chris was generous enough to take some time to talk shop, art, fashion and the future of Q Pop.
So, for starters, can you please explain to everyone what Q Pop is and the meaning of the name.
Q Pop is basically an outlet for my original artwork and products and also an outlet for other artists who share a similar attention to design and detail. We are definitely not interested in mass produced goods. Everything in the shop, even if it's from a larger company is either limited in quantity or one of a kind. As for the meaning of the name..you'll have to come to the opening show on Jan. 29 and maybe you can find out then.
What compelled you to create Q Pop?
Q Pop came about for several different reasons. One was out of total frustration working in the animation industry. In animation, often times you slave away working sweatshop style long hours, pouring your heart and soul into your work, only to have it pooped on by company executives who have absolutely no taste or experience in the field in which they work. For me personally, I needed to do something that would offer me something more directly fulfilling.
How long was this store in the making?
The idea of the shop had been passed between Miki and I for a while, but more as a "what if" type scenario. Nothing concrete...until last summer. We went on vacation to Japan and Thailand. Whenever I go to Japan, it's really exhilarating. There is so much visual stimulation and inspiration. It's really fantastic. So when I got back to Los Angeles, part of me was feeling like there just weren't that many fun shops in LA...like what we just saw in Japan and Thailand too.. People doing there own thing...and the fact that there's a place for that there. People support it. Anyway, we just decided to risk it and go for it. And then it didn't really take that much time at all to get setup. Construction took about 2 months…murals...it's still in process and probably always will be; a state of constant change.
With Q Pop, people living in or visiting Southern California will have access to Japanese brands without having to pay outrageous shipping/custom costs or going through venues like shopping services, online communities and Japanese websites. Where did your interest in Japanese fashion come from?
When I was in art school, for three seconds, I thought about being a fashion designer. So I've always been into fashion. Japanese fashion is great!! It's so fun and creative. Some of it is outrageous and some of it is super conservative, but I think the fun part of Tokyo is that you can have both right next to each other...and it's acceptable. If you're dressed in pink underwear on your head, you won't get beat up. That's a mighty good thing. Being able to express yourself that way without fear is very inspiring too. I'm an old school punk rocker so I can really get into some of the brands we carry. It's the stuff I wear anyway so it was a no brainer in picking them.
Will you continue your art? Is there even time for something like that with a new shop?
Definitely!! I can't really stop that even if I tried. I just designed some original shirts for the shop and I'll have a piece in our opening show. I was also just in a show at Gallery Nucleus. Since the shop is an outlet for me as well I plan to be doing a lot of stuff. We should have some original jewelry and some limited vinyl figures coming up. We'll have to see about the time issue.
Did your friends in animation think you were nuts?
Oh absolutely!! And they're probably right, but sometimes you have to follow the dream and just ignore the naysayers.
So you’re pretty lucky. You managed to con your very generous friends into painting beautiful murals for you on the store. Elizabeth Ito covered the entire external wall with her cute creatures. Kevin Dart and Chris Turnham decked out the wall behind the register in a retro space pop scene. What other art do you have in store for the shop?
Well, the gallery space plans to have a show every few months or so. Our opening party already has over 40 artists from Japan and the US participating. It's going to be amazing! As for the murals...if you just come to the shop to see those..it's worth it. They're absolutely beautiful.
What are you most excited about with this new venture?
Meeting new contacts and mingling with all the great people. It is so much fun meeting so many talents and I really look forward to some of our collaborations we have planned in the future.
What can customers expect in the future? Any other Japanese fashion brands?
We're planning to have many shows coming up and some great events with our Japanese brands..giveaways..etc. Stay tuned for that info. We've gotten requests to carry other labels. I'm talking to my good friend Sebastian Masuda from 6% DOKIDOKI about carrying their line in the shop. That might happen in the very near future.
6%DOKIDOKI in the US?? I know plenty of people who are going to love that.
Kevin Dart also made a great time lapse video for the mural painting done inside the shop for those interested in seeing the process of creating such a large piece of work. Can you spot the Q mascot in Kevin and Chris' mural?
I hope everyone will be able to check out Q Pop sometime in the near future. The artwork alone is enough reason to at least drop by (a little bird told me Junko Mizuno is going to have a mural in the store as well), but the items you can only purchase in the store from Thailand, Japan & select artists is what will make this a new favorite shop for many. There’s still time to get those unique gifts for your family and friends for the holidays!
Remember to save Saturday, January 29th 2011 for their official opening celebrations!
128 Astronaut E S Onizuka St
Los Angeles, CA 90012