Gabriela Rosales

Photos by Kayten Schmidt

Gabriela Rosales is the founder of Formative Modern, a Los Angeles-based gallery that specializes in early twentieth century design. Gaby seeks out special pieces from Europe — focusing largely on furniture designers such Josef Hoffmann, as well as Gênet et Michon, Pierre Legrain, and other French heavyweights from the Art Deco period. We shot the Fall 2022 lookbook shoot at her first location in Hancock Park and continue to be inspired by her unique ability to curate collectible items in an elegant and serene setting.

Gaby’s eye for interiors extends to her personal aesthetic, which is refined yet pragmatic. For work days spent moving furniture and running her business, she wears the Zion boot, and for evenings out, she opts for the Chelsea heel. Here, she tells us more about her passion for the 1930s and how her time spent in Europe has informed her approach to creating an elevated presence in Southern California.

How would you describe your style?

Relaxed, refined, retrospective. 

Can you tell us about Formative Modern and how it came to be?

Formative Modern is the business I started in 2018, born out of my passion for furniture design and the decorative arts, more specifically, my obsession with modernity at the beginning of the twentieth century. I studied Art History and after stints in art and fashion, I figured out pretty quickly those industries were not for me. The world of design really opened up to me while spending time in Europe, taking a furniture design course at CSM in London. Exposure to European galleries, libraries and museums devoted to design had a huge impression on me. Back in LA, it felt like it was either “art gallery” or “furniture/home decor store” and nothing in between, or nothing that really elevated design to the level it should be held at. I brought this passion back with me and began slowly buying and selling pieces, with the hopes of eventually opening my own gallery. While I am still on the path to fully realizing that vision (for now, I use my home in Silverlake as a showroom) Formative Modern is the outlet for all of my efforts in finding, researching and reviving furniture and objects with historical significance, mostly European works from the first half of the 20th century. 

Do you have a favorite find to date and why?

My favorite find to date was a rare pair of René Herbst armchairs with bent tubular steel frames from 1928. I found them at Drouot in Paris, a large auction house with rooms and rooms of stuff. Seeing them go from that cramped, dusty room in France in their worn out state to their ultimate placement (after restoration) into a Palisades home overlooking the ocean next to a Doug Aitken sculpture was really satisfying. Each piece is an investment of time and energy, and many hands (including my own) helped make that circuit complete: the auctioneer, the shippers, the upholsterer, the welder, the leather vendor, and the interior designer.

When was the last great trip you took and where did you go?

Mexico City with my boyfriend. I’m half Mexican and have been to CDMX many times, but every time I go it feels like there is still something new to discover there.  We stayed at a new hotel that just opened called Casa Polanco, which was great. 

What is currently inspiring you? Sartorially, culturally or otherwise?

The 1930s. So much amazing work was produced during this time. And the era encapsulates so much: minimalism, glamor, function, opulence. Basically you name it and someone during the 1930s did a perfect rendition of it. What fascinates me too is that many of these things still feel fresh today, almost 100 years later. And speaking in terms of today, the interior design of Fabrizio Casiraghi and the floral design of Dr. Cooper are two things I recently discovered that left me feeling inspired. 

What is your current favorite shoe from Emme Parsons, and how would you style it? 

The Zion in Black calfskin with my favorite jeans from Dries van Noten and a Petit Bateau t-shirt for everyday. I’m carrying furniture around often and need a comfortable, covered-toe shoe. For going out in the evening, I love the Chelsea in Black Suede because again, it is incredibly comfortable but also sexy. It is certified walkable for people like me who are used to only wearing flats. 

Guilty or not so guilty pleasure?

Eating ice cream in bed scrolling through Liveauctioneers…

Last great book that you read?

Coming to My Senses by Alice Waters - I read this on a solo buying trip to France and it made my food experience there so much more vibrant. And The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, which anyone in a remotely creative field should read. 


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