It was a homecoming of sorts for Ulla Johnson.
The New York-based designer was back in Los Angeles, where she lived for a few years when she first started her brand.
“I have a special place in my heart for L.A.,” she said.
It’s where she chose to open her new flagship, a 3,000-square-foot, residential-feeling Kelly Wearstler-designed store on Beverly Boulevard, after making a mark in Manhattan and Amagansett, N.Y. Naturally, the new space — with its back parking lot transformed into an outdoor garden for the occasion — served as the perfect setting for a celebratory dinner Thursday night.
“I didn’t know how to drive. I failed my driver test,” Johnson laughed, reminiscing. “I did love it, and ever since then I’ve had a piece of L.A. in my heart. It was a long time coming to open our home here. We really see it as a home.”
She gathered longtime friends of the brand, actresses and their respective stylists — Gabrielle Union and Cynthia Erivo with Jason Bolden; Dakota Fanning with Samantha McMillen; Rachel Bilson with Nicole Chavez, and Melanie Lynskey with Misha Rudolph, all dressed in Johnson’s color- and print-filled designs.
Dinner was prepared by L.A. chef Courtney Storer, the culinary director of FX’s “The Bear” (and sister of series creator Chris Storer). Guests were served a colorful beet salad, sea bass and a passion fruit pavlova. The table, too, was bright and vivid, dressed in exotic flowers and fruits amid candlelight. Familiar oldies by Phil Phillips and Elvis Presley played in the background in the open air.
Ukrainian artist Yelena Yemchuk, married to “The Bear” actor Ebon Moss-Bachrach, was among the bunch, as were actresses Gillian Jacobs, Lily Rabe, Jessica Williams, Nia Jervier and April Hughes; stylists Kate Foley, Erin Walsh, Brit and Kara Smith; UTA’s Dan Constable and colleague Zuzanna Ciolek, director of the UTA Artist Space; producer Julie Darmody, and Academy Museum of Motion Pictures director and president Jacqueline Stewart.
The women caught up, chitchatting about life in L.A., their kids, schools, country clubs and neighborhood hangouts — as they continue to be impacted by the SAG-AFTRA strike.
As the night was ending, a few discovered it was Jacobs’ birthday.
“Happy birthday,” they exclaimed.
“Would you like us to break out in song?” smiled Bilson.