Yearly Dose of Narcissism with a Smidge of Socrates

secret agent pr, design PR, haily zaki, julie karatzis, christine kim

I believe it was Socrates that said that 99.9% of PR is appearance.  Alright, that may not be an exact quote, but it’s an accepted assumption in the industry.  We agree to a certain extent but like to think there is a lot of substance behind what we do.  So, as part of our 2012 overhaul, we realized that it was high time to focus a bit of time and effort on putting forth an image that complements the high caliber of our design clients.  We hired amazing photographer Carla Choy and squeezed a day-long shoot in between phone calls, e-mails, and a regular day at the office.  Talk about multi-tasking!  The result: some head shots for our new website and a fun secret agent team building exercise.

Joking aside, it actually was Socrates who said “The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear.”  And in this case, we desire to appear like we enjoy what we do, there’s substance behind appearance, and we look damned good in trench coats.

So without further adieu, we’re going to be unabashedly narcissistic and share a few pics from behind the scenes of our super fun photo shoot.  It’s weird actually being in front of the cameras for a change.  (And having eye lashes for four hours.)  Don’t worry, we won’t subject anyone to this again for a while.

Big thanks to Sherilyn Yi, songstress and make up artist for being patient with us!

This is our “cop” look.

Our “Inspector Clousseau” look

Tools of the trade

Lovely lashes

It takes A LOT to get pretty.

Agent C – Before

Agent J – In transformation

That’s right folks.  Behind the scenes ain’t pretty.

We keep telling Christine this should be her new perm-look.  Hawt.


Spotted: BNIB

Even though I have yet to meet many of our neighbors at the the Lacy Studio Lofts, that doesn’t prevent me from eyeballing their spaces whenever I rush by or let Brutus take a pee break.  I’ve often wondered what the big food truck-looking van outside was all about since it definitely has not been serving up snacks.  And now I know.

For my hipster, biking friends of the dude variety, BNIB is a must-see.  Part magazine, part retail gallery, BNIB stands for “brand new in box” and this upstart brand peddles only the best and hippest in accessories, shoes, and other little goodies for the Calif-urban man (who I imagine must have stubble, no collar ever, a coffee obsession and a bike).  Among the most conversation-worthy finds at BNIB (besides the sweet man shoes): the Equilibryum bracelet which the guys at BNIB swear works way better than its less attractive QVC cousin (we’re skeptical, prove it!), the hot ass man technology like these Oma Monarch speakers, the undeniably manly Insight candles, and the Mister SF Bracelets (wait, are these seriously manly?)

So while the BNIB food truck won’t be dolling out any snacks any time soon, it will be making the short trip down Lacy Street to park out side the Secret Agent PR – Attack! Marketing party tonight where it will be serving up hot shoes and delicious accessories for the dudes.  So if you’re planning on stopping by our office-warming sumo-meets-secret-agent shin dig this evening, be sure to check out the BNIB shop and grab some nosh from the real food trucks outside, rain and windstorms not withstanding.

And if you can’t make it, then make sure to stop by BNIB’s first brick and mortar space, fondly known as the BOX, to get your shop on, boys. (We won’t make fun of you if you by the Mr. Beads Bracelet.  Promise.)


Go: Dwell + Marin Magazine Marin County Home Tour

Photo by Matthew Millman

Fans of modern architecture already know that Marin County is veritable trove of mid-century finds.  Eichler, Frank Lloyd Wright, Raphael Soriano, John Bolles, Francis Joseph McCarthy, Cliff May, and Claude Oakland have all designed homes in the area (or a Civic Center, in the case of FLW), not to mention a new generation of local architects who are taking up the modern mantle.  Later this month, arch-nerds, mid-century fanatics, and lookiloos are invited to get their design fix on the 2nd Annual Dwell+Marin Magazine Marin County Home Tour which will take visitors inside ten of the most notable homes in this picturesque area, starting in Cavallo Point on Friday, April 27th with a Meet the Architects reception for true devotees.  The self-guided tour which takes place Saturday and Sunday, April 28th and 29th from 10am to 4pm will explore Southern and Central/West Marin, respectively.

We wish we could go, but we can’t.  So you guys go and let us know what you think!

Check this out for more information about modern Marin County architecture, in case you’re in the market to buy one.  Or buy tickets to the tour here.


Spotted: Landscape Art-chitecture by Cao | Perrot Studio

Since I was born I’ve have suffered from an unfortunate affliction: the dreaded black thumb.  For this reason, I’m always in deep awe of people who can not only keep plants alive, but use them as a natural medium for artistic expression.  In particular, I love the work of LA- and Paris-based landscape art and design studio Cao|Perrot Studio.

Vietnamese-born, adopted son of Los Angeles Andy Cao is a recipient of the Rome Prize Fellowship in Landscape Architecture at the American Academy in Rome and the Loeb Fellowship at Harvard University Graduate School of Design.  Native Briton Xavier Perrot was awarded the Lauréats des Nouveaux Albums des Jeunes Architectes et Paysagistes” (Emerging Young Architects and Landscape Designer Award) by the French Ministry of Culture.  Together they seem to make nothing less than magic.

Cao Perrot Studio

From ethereal gardens for the modern abode to compelling public art installations, this studio pushes the boundaries of landscape architecture as a discipline and bravely explores landscape design as a form of art, expression, and experimentation.  Their work is whimsical and fantastic, ranging from magical floral arrangements to conceptual spaces shaded by hovering, shimmering cumulus clouds.  They play with materials to create experiential and unforgettable landscapes.

I’m thrilled to think that we’ll soon get the opportunity to work with Andy on an upcoming project.  More details to come soon.  All we can say for now is that spring in LA is about to bloom, big time.

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Strike #1 and #3 Off the List

How did March creep into our calendars so deftly and quietly?  While we’re not at all ready for tax season, St. Paddy’s, or Easter, we’re happy to announce that we’ve been super busy at Secret Agent HQ paying some much-needed attention to, well, yours truly.  Our new year’s resolutions were not in vain.  Strike at least two off the list…partially!

#1: The Cobbler with No Shoes is Getting Some Chus!

We’re finally working on our website. For the time being, we’ve pulled down the old one so just look for us on Facebook or call us on our swanky phone lines if you need us. (Be sure to listen to the WHOLE message!) Brand spankin’ new site: ETA this spring.

#3: Movin’ on Up and Out to Lincoln Heights!

The secret agents are officially shacked up with the sumos!  We’ve moved into a new space at the Lacy Studio Lofts with Attack! Marketing.  We’re still putting on the finishing touches but hope to open up HQ for a little par-tay in April as well.

Now if only I were this good at keeping my personal resolutions…


The Mini Skirt Turns 50

Photo by Romano Cagnoni

Being stuck in traffic has its perks, namely catching really good stories on the radio (thank you KCRW, KPCC, and now BBC World!).  The other day  BBC World’s Witness show featured an interview with fashion designer Mary Quant celebrating the 50th anniversary of the mini-skirt.  Without Mary, who knows where our hemlines would be today?

Apparently still sporting her trademark Vidal Sasson hair cut, Mary Quant is still designing today.  But she’ll always be remembered for leading a fashion revolution and single-handedly creating a look that came to embody swinging London.  Taking the hemline from the mid-shin to way above the knee and only slightly below the cheeks, Mary gave women a new sense of freedom.   Her skirts made the likes of Twiggy famous, and probably made countless other women resort to pants.  But love it or hate it, the mini skirt is a pretty symbolic little piece of clothing.

Among her other ingenious creations?  Colored tights!  I have a few friends who would be pretty naked without their colored tights!  So thank you, Mary.  And happy birthday, Mini Skirt!

Listen to the awesome story here.

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Spotted: Hotel Endemico in Baja, CA

Hotel Endemico, Grupo Habita, Luis Garcia, Garcia Studio

Six years ago when Brian and I headed to Guadalupe Canyon for our camping honeymoon, we had to drive across a giant (and extremely bumpy) salt flat and boulder-crawl up the side of a mountain to get to a bunch of palapas and hot springs.  It was awesome – don’t get me wrong – but a stay at the new Hotel Endemico might have been a bit more comfortable.

I just caught sight of this amazing little piece of heaven on Archilovers (which is like the new Architizer?  Either way, we love them both!) and followed the link love to Inhabitat and Condenast Traveller to find out more.  Designed by Tijuana architect Jorge Gracia, the Endemico offers 20 minimalist structures set on a 40-acre winery overlooking the valley below.  Each luxurious 20-sq ft room features a bathroom, a terrace, a clay firepit and views of the valley.

There’s  apparently a food and wine explosion happening in Baja and Grupo Habita is only the latest to stake a claim in the Guadalupe Valley.  If you believe Johnny Jet, crime stats are down in the area so there’s no reason not to check this place out.  Even though the days of spring break are long gone for us, I wouldn’t mind skipping across the border for a bit of R&R (&vino)…

Photos by Luis Garcia

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Been: iRchitecture

Phone, laptop, radio, movie screen, camera – the iPhone is the da Vinci of gadgets. Within a few short years, this all-in-one device has profoundly shaped the way people look at and interact with the world.

Much like the iPhone which is so much more than just a phone, Carlo Caccavale refuses to be limited to “just” the AIA|LA associate director. This veritable Renaissance man finds time to wear many another hat, including that of writer, producer, designer, and now artist.  He recently hosted an opening reception on for iRchitecture, a collection of images shot with his iPhone.  A follow-up to his first The Eye and the iPhone exhibition, Caccavale stretches the creative boundaries of this everyday medium, turning a practical device into an instrument of art. No lens, no filters, and no fancy apps with faux bokeh – his photos are au naturale, drawing attention to the intrinsic beauty of the built environment.

iRchitecture is a celebration of architecture and design, currently on display at the American Institute of Architects Los Angeles (3780 Wilshire Blvd, Suite #800, Los Angeles, CA 90010).

Click on the images below (also taken on an iPhone) for a peek at the opening reception and Caccavale’s work.


John Chase West Hollywood Map

Few individuals have been able to reshape and redefine the urban landscape (or work a mean mustache) like the late, great John Chase. The legacy of this legendary writer and urban designer continues to live on in Los Angeles, his vibrant spirit dwelling in the colorful, lively public spaces he helped to develop.

Last yearde LaB partnered with KCRW’s Frances Anderton to celebrate John’s influence in West Hollywood. From Plummer Park to West Hollywood City Hall, friends and admirers took a city-wide tour on the talented designer’s May 21st birthday, remembering his efforts to create beautiful, functional, and successful urban spaces.

To celebrate John’s profound influence on West Hollywood and the design community at large, the LA Urban Forum and design east of la brea produced this one-of-a-kind walking map, including 31 WeHo destinations that John designed, protected, enabled, approved, admired or frequented, along with descriptions, stories and anecdotes written by John’s friends and collaborators.  Designer Keith Scharwath created the map in an eye-popping trademark John hot pink hue.  The commemorative map is now available for purchase online. One map is $5, and three maps are $10. Prices include shipping. If you’d like to buy four or more maps, please contact hello [at] designeastoflabrea [dot] org.

Own your own special little piece of an LA design legacy.  Click HERE to get more information about purchasing a John Chase West Hollywood map.


Secret Agent New Year’s Resolutions

Secret Agent PR, Julie Karatzis

2011 was a whirlwind year with lots of accomplishments, ranging from getting a a #hashtag in the New York Times, to being interviewed by Frances Anderton on DnA.  However, it’s time to look forward to the rest of 2012. We’re off to a bit of a late start, as evidenced by the fact that the month of January is half over, but we’ve set some goals for ourselves that we aim to hit them before 2013 rolls around.

1. Get Some Shoes

We are the proverbial cobbler with no shoes, guilty of devoting most of our time to promoting and cultivating our clients’ brands and little or none on our own.  It’s not that we’ll spend any less time doing that in 2012, but we’re planning a Secret Agent revamp this spring.  Mama’s gettin’ some shoes…finally!

2. Seek Knowledge

By virtue of what we do by day, we’re always watching what’s happening in the world of design.  But this year, our goal is broaden our knowledge base even further.  More research, more design events, more questions, more answers.

3. Move Out and Up

By high school years, we’re essentially seniors entering our 4th year and we’re ready to move out of the house…literally.  This year, we aim to find a new HQ.  Onward, and upward.  That probably means a party.  And yes, you’re invited.

4. Collaborate

The LA design scene is popping.  Every day a new design star is born and we even have our own design festival and three-day modern design fair.  Things feel like they’re on an upswing and we’re looking forward the ride that 2012 will surely provide.   This year, we aim to find more ways to collaborate with more people.

5.  Sharing is Caring

One area where we’ve been sorely lacking is in giving back.  This year, we’d like to forge a partnership with a local non-profit and find a creative way to give back.