“Can you personally do better? And how are you going to do it?”
Lizz Wasserman and Isaac Resnikoff × Creative Directors × Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.
Fred Segal creative director Lizz Wasserman and Isaac Resnikoff, the founder of Project Room, reflect on a changing Los Angeles, their net-zero dream home, and the value of collaboration.
RE: CREATIVE CAREERS
LIZZ: Part of what I do at Fred Segal is based in collaboration — figuring out how we can make something that’s new and special, and that will make our community excited. We’re a heritage brand with deep roots in LA, but at the same time, we want to make sure that we’re a brand for all of Los Angeles — the new Los Angeles, not just the throwback.
I recently worked on a collection focused on Los Angeles-based creatives, and we produced a series of blankets. We looked to different artists that were representative of the city — like Eric Junker, Bijou Karman and Jamie Muñoz. I hope we keep going with it. It would be fun to expand to different cities.
We’ve also engaged in a partnership with the Black In Fashion Council, and I’m continuously impressed by the women who founded that organization. We launched something with them called Season Zero, which is a competition to find new designers, with a focus on making sure that we really opened it up to designers that might not be getting representation, and talented people who just might not yet be in stores.
ISAAC: I’m trained as an artist, and I think I still identify as an artist, even though the majority of what I'm doing right now is in more of a design paradigm. Project Room started as a side hustle, but it became a vehicle for a lot of collaborative projects that I was working on. At various points, Lizz and I collaborated early on. We designed the gallery benches for the Museum of Contemporary Art here. It’s a mirrored bench that almost seems to disappear into its surroundings.
LIZZ: It’s funny. In our careers, I bring commerce to art, and Isaac brings art to commerce.
Whenever we make something together, it’s usually something that is both interesting and weird, but also very functional. Our kids, though, are just cute. Not functional at all.
RE: LOS ANGELES
LIZZ: I moved here when Isaac got into grad school at UCLA, and we just fell in love with it. We got our first car, which was a vintage Mercedes that ran on vegetable oil, and a really big studio that we still have. Isaac runs Project Room out of it now. So many of our friends moved here from New York — we just ended up staying. I grew up coming here because I have cousins on the Westside. And the city has changed — to me, LA feels like it’s the city of the future in terms of its diversity, and the possibility it holds for artists and creatives.
ISAAC: I grew up in the Bay Area, so I had a really negative perception of Los Angeles when I was younger. But when we moved here from New York, I realized very quickly how much it just felt like coming back to California. It was familiar.
Because the city goes on forever, it’s easy to have the perception of the sprawl as an outsider — but inside, it’s one interesting and specific place after another. You never really have a sense of knowing it all.
LIZZ: Isaac and Project Room recently won a contest to design the new LA streetlights. They’re very contemporary and forward-looking and futuristic, but at the same time, they’re really pretty.
ISAAC: Our daughter, Esphyr Rain Superbloom, was born a couple days before they announced the winners. We were frantically trying to figure out what the lamp was going to be called. When I sent the team at Project Room a picture of her with her name, all of a sudden Joakim, the project's lead designer, was like, “We should call it Superbloom.” So the Los Angeles streetlights are now named after our daughter.
RE: CONJURING THEIR DREAM HOME
LIZZ: We knew that we wanted to try to build our own house, and there were a bunch of things that made it possible. One was that we had found an empty plot of land we could afford, and the other was the fact that my dad is an architect. His design vision for the house was really clear.
Every time a question came up, we were able to be like, “Let’s push it. Let’s do the right thing — the big thing, not the safe thing.”
My mom is a landscape architect and did the plans for the backyard. Isaac designed and fabricated the entire kitchen and all of our built-ins. A lot of new houses are not very caring or warm, though they might feel super cool to be in. But this house has always felt like a home. Pretty much every single surface is plywood, and there’s a ton of windows.
ISAAC: Yeah, it’s architecture with a capital A, and sometimes that can feel oppositional to the people who actually live in the house. Here, once you get over the fact that having plywood floors means that they’re going to get dinged up — you just have to understand that as a form of patina — the house is incredibly forgiving. It did take a long time, though. We got the land in 2011, and we moved in last year. It was definitely a journey.
RE: LIVING NET ZERO
ISAAC: There’s no gas to the house at all. I can be very obsessive about geeky things, including induction cooktops, in this case. Years before we started building, I was driving Lizz nuts talking to people about it.
LIZZ: I would be like, “Please don’t talk about your plans for net-zero at this party.”
ISAAC: It’s actually pretty easy to just make everything electric. Now the house generates more power than we use.
LIZZ: My dad also set it up to do a lot of passive heating and cooling. There are so many things — whether it’s aesthetic or clothing or our car or our food — where we thought, “Let’s make the right decision now. It might cost more now, but the net cost is less.” By net cost, I also mean the impact cost. It feels really good to drive an electric car that gets its juice from the solar panels on our house.
RE: FINDING YOUR PLACE
ISAAC: With the pandemic, everybody is finding different paths for a little while.
Right now, Project Room is focusing much more on furniture, which is the thing that, as an artist, I continually go to because it’s object-based. It’s my go-to place. And then there’s the idea that we can use this period of time where we’re all at home to refine some ideas about living.
LIZZ: Coronavirus has highlighted just how connected we all are, internationally and interpersonally. And I think that’s part of what made this whole period also be one of self-reflection for so many people: Are you doing good work? Can you personally do better? And how are you going to do it?