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Free City Shop, Los Angeles

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Nina Garduno recently opened her shop Free City—a mix between an actual store and a design commune–on Highland Avenue in Hollywood. She started the company in 2002, inspired by her "hippie childhood" and creative communities like Christiania in Copenhagen: "places where people collect to experiment with different ways to live out their life." Unconventionally designed and riotously colorful, Free City is stocked with products, furniture, and clothing made exclusively by Los Angeles-based artisans—and occasional outsider collaborators like the Mission Bicycle Company in San Francisco. Almost everything in the shop, from the silkscreened t-shirts to the handcrafted wooden furniture, is made just five blocks away, by the dozen or so employees in Free City's workshop, none of whom are trained designers. "No one went to school to learn these things," says Garduno. "Whatever it is, we figure out how to make it ourselves."

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  Garduno's background is in fashion; she was a vice president at Fred Segal for over 20 years.
    Garduno's background is in fashion; she was a vice president at Fred Segal for over 20 years.
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  Here's the shop's front entrance.
    Here's the shop's front entrance.
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  Free City's facade is emblazoned with a colorful, graphic mural by the artist Margo Victor.
    Free City's facade is emblazoned with a colorful, graphic mural by the artist Margo Victor.
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  The store doesn't maintain a back stock; as soon as something is completed in the workshop, it goes into the shop. When it sells, the workshop makes another one.
    The store doesn't maintain a back stock; as soon as something is completed in the workshop, it goes into the shop. When it sells, the workshop makes another one.
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  The words "Life Nature Love" (in background, in a framed print) are Garduno's guiding mantra; it's the phrase that inspired her to start Free City eight years ago.
    The words "Life Nature Love" (in background, in a framed print) are Garduno's guiding mantra; it's the phrase that inspired her to start Free City eight years ago.
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  Another view of the interior.
    Another view of the interior.
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  A defining feature of the shop is a pair of sculptures by Free City artist Rick Frausto. This is his 'Box Bike,' inspired by tuk-tuks in Thailand.
    A defining feature of the shop is a pair of sculptures by Free City artist Rick Frausto. This is his 'Box Bike,' inspired by tuk-tuks in Thailand.
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  Frausto's 'Camper Bike' holds court in another corner of the shop.
    Frausto's 'Camper Bike' holds court in another corner of the shop.
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  Hand silk-screened T-shirts, priced from $85, are Free City's bread and butter; also popular are their sweatpants and sweatshirts. Each piece of clothing has been "hand-touched, worked on by many hands," says Garduno.
    Hand silk-screened T-shirts, priced from $85, are Free City's bread and butter; also popular are their sweatpants and sweatshirts. Each piece of clothing has been "hand-touched, worked on by many hands," says Garduno.

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