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When LA's top indie boutiques need their windows expertly dressed, they turn to visual artist ChadMichael Morrisette. At 15, the born-and-raised Alaskan moved with his siblings to San Diego ("we were like Party of Five, except there were four of us"), graduated high school early, and got a job as a temporary stockroom assistant at Nordstrom. His detail-oriented tendencies caught the eye of management, and he was quickly promoted to a permanent visual team member position in the men's department. By 17, Morrisette was recruited by Saks Fifth Avenue to design its high-end displays—but big city life was calling, and he moved to LA two years later.
After putting his creative talents to use in special events design, Morrisette decided it was time to return to the world of windows. His first project was for luxe jewelry boutique Kaviar & Kind (today, it's essential shop Roseark). "That was nearly 10 years ago," Morrisette says, and since then, been dreaming up eye-popping, award-winning displays as CM Squared Designs. Have you seen Madison's American Horror Story-themed window? Yup, that's Morrisette's mind at work.
Being LA's "'mannequin man' [...] was never my dream," Morrisette tells us. Growing up in the Mormon faith, the West Hollywood-based window dresser says he never put much thought into his future until he discovered his knack for creativity at Saks. In addition to maintaining and updating his massive mannequin collection (one of the world's largest!), Morrisette tells us he's working on a local exhibit on history of mannequins. "My long-term goal is a museum dedicated to mannequin arts and sculpture. I've collected paper archives, old mannequin catalogs," he tell us.
We caught up with the 34-year-old creative force not far from his home at Whole Foods in West Hollywood, where we found out his most expensive mannequin buy, his most memorable creations, and more.
What are your top three favorite window displays that you've created?
One of my most powerful windows [was] when Alexander McQueen passed away, we put up a tribute window at Madison Melrose. Even though they didn't sell the product, he was such a big name in the industry and so much of his work trickled down into our world. It was somber, it wasn't meant to be anything but a tribute.
The window that I won for Racked, the Madison Missoni window, that one was so incredibly detail-oriented—it was three to four thousand pieces of tissue paper stapled to the wall in the Missoni grid. It was the stupidest thing I ever thought of because there was so much time involved! But the reward of that in the end was so amazing.
I just did one at Robert Ellis boutique [in Studio City] called "Fashion is Art.'' I framed the mannequins in these beautiful gold and black frames; it was super-streamlined because sometimes less is more. Robert told me that every single day someone came in and said something about the beauty of the window.
How many mannequins are in your collection?
I have about 450 mannequins; I started collecting about six years ago. My first one was a Rootstein. It's like a Ferrari or a Bentley; they set the all trends. Now I have a collection of all the current makers, and makers that are long-gone; things from the '50s and '60s and '70s and '80s that no longer exist.
I feel lucky because I get to use my collections in my business. I put those girls to work! I have located but I don't own—yet—one of the Kim Cattrall mannequins from the movie Mannequin.
What's the most you've paid for a mannequin?
$2,200 for [a mannequin designed after iconic model] Twiggy. There were three that I was about to buy this spring that were from the 1920s; they wanted $2,500 a piece. I couldn't afford it, but they're historic.
What are you thoughts on the Hollywood Costume exhibit?
It is amazing. All of the mannequins are customized to fit the costumes. It's curated amazingly; I was very impressed with how they did it. I've seen a lot of shows and sometimes the mannequins just kill it. Costume exhibition is so different than fashion display when it comes to mannequins.
If you could travel back in time, what decade would you live in?
Art Deco—the '20s and '30s. It's when design broke from the neo-Rennaissance, Victorian old-school. And living in LA, you learn so much about Deco because Hollywood was booming. I mean, Pantages Theatre, the Park Plaza—I imagine LA in the 1940s once Deco was all built…must have been just so beautiful.
What's your dream vacation?
Right now it would be Fiji. I would like to go to the Southern hemisphere for beaches; I do want to go see all of the ancient temples that are all over the world, the jungles of South America, the pyramids—just anything ancient or super super nature. Just not Alaska.
I wear blue a lot; it does cool things to my eyes. In my interiors I like earth tones, like greens and browns.
Coffee or tea?
Tea! Yerba mate. I kicked coffee years ago for daily—if there's a long day, I'll have one. But my morning is tea.
You've been vegan for 14 years, but do you have a fast-food guilty pleasure?
If I'm traveling on the road, Taco Bell. It's just beans, rice, guacamole and salsa. Otherwise, french fries!
Favorite vegan restaurant?
Crossroads! It's at Melrose and Sweetzer. The best vegan cuisine in Los Angeles. It's fine-dine, it's gorgeous, it's innovative; it's not veggie burger diner style. They're cutting-edge when it comes to the concept of food.
· CM Squared Designs [Official Site]
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