Recess Vintage Store Owner Marie Monsod Gave Up A Law Career For Love — Of Fashion

Archival Gucci hits deep.

Marie Monsod
marie monsod recess vintage

Stepping into Los Angeles vintage haven Recess, you feel a bit like you’ve entered a wonderland of sorts. Vibrant colors, prints, shapes, and trinkets invade the periphery by way of Versace silk shirts, Alexandre Vauthier crystalized mini dresses, and red patent Vivienne Westwood Court shoes. And that’s just scratching the surface of the archival treasure trove that’s captivated the local fashion set for the last decade. Literally, every inch of space is covered with rare accessories and stuffed clothing racks, from the ivory walls to the glass display cases. This careful curation is the mastermind of vintage aficionado and store owner Marie Monsod, who says that she named the store as a reference to childhood play hour. “I wanted it to have a fun name, one word,” the LA native explains to TZR. “And what's more fun than recess when you were a kid? [This is] like a grownup playground.”

The Filipino-American entrepreneur explains that her path to the world of vintage has been an unexpected one. Her professional background and education had nothing to do with fashion ... not even close. “I never imagined vintage being my career,” she says. “I actually wanted to become a lawyer. I was going to go to law school, but deep down inside, I had always loved anything creative. I've always loved fashion.” While working as a paralegal, Monsod says she lost her cousin suddenly, an event that quickly changed her perspective on life. “All of a sudden, something happened in me where I switched and, instead of going to law school, I decided to do vintage. Because I've always loved it and I've always wanted to be in fashion.”

Monsod grew up attending flea markets and estate sales with her parents, who both worked in real estate. This exposure to unique, vintage finds instilled an early love for a throwback. As a teenager, she would mix and match archival pieces like old Levi’s with of-the-moment items from ‘90s mall brands like Contempo Casuals and Judy’s.

Fast-forward to 2010, Monsod hit a career crossroads and tapped into her existing knowledge and raw passion for the vintage world. Her initial vision for her retail business started small — with a single item. “It literally started with a top, a beaded butterfly top that I found at a flea market,” she says. “I came home with that top and I told my husband, ‘I think I'm going to switch and I think I'm going to do this instead.’ He's like, ‘Great, you're going to need more than one top.’”

Monsod got to work, carefully building upon her inventory, scouring flea markets and vintage shops on her travels with her husband Kenneth Shepp. For the first five years, her business consisted of pop-up vintage shows around LA and a small by-appointment studio. In 2013, the entrepreneur made the decision to open a shop that was a vintage/consignment hybrid, something she felt the city was lacking at the time. Thus, Recess was born.

Since the store’s early days Monsod has stayed diligent and particular about the shop’s selection, comprising her inventory of unique items that reflect her own eclectic and bold aesthetic. “I honestly love everything from leather and studded, grungy belts to pretty silk chiffon and lace and really feminine,” she says. “There’s really a wide range of things that can be found here. I love statement pieces like huge '80s drop earrings. I love sequins, beading, feathers, print, color. I try to always have fun dresses for events, but then I also really gravitate toward sleek pieces from brands like Richard Tyler and Japanese designers like Issey Miyaki. It's honestly all over the place.”

Over the years, Monsod has managed to stock Recess with some truly rare gems. Some notable finds have included the iconic teddy bear coat by Jean Charles de Castelbajac, originally designed in 1988. With only a few made, one for Madonna and one worn by Helena Christiansen in the film Pret-A-Porter, the store owner described the archival item as “the craziest jacket in the world.” At the moment, Monsod also mentions a Thierry Mugler rainbow suit that she currently has in stock as well “a couple of Tom Ford’s crazy gowns from when he was at Gucci.”

Recess’ exclusive and eclectic mix of rare treasures has made celebrity stylists like Law Roach, Bradley Kenneth, and Alana Van Deraa regular frequenters of the shop. “Yeah, we definitely have some big people, and we also have our regular customers who just love coming in and seeing what's new and are just true vintage lovers,” says Monsod.

In its 11 years of business, Recess has hit some major challenges, including a global pandemic that forced the retail store to go completely online for nearly two years, with Monsod and her husband compiling “live virtual collections” for Instagram followers. There’s also been major milestones, including a new home decor and accessories category, which was added in 2021. And, in December 2023, Monsod launched a collection of statement earrings, exclusively sold in-store and online (for now).

This most recent venture was a longtime coming for the business owner, who says she’s had a longtime passion and love for the bold accessories. “I just always love them because you could be wearing the most simple outfit and throw on earrings and you're ready to go,” says Monsod, whose eponymous line was inspired by jewelry aficionado Richard Kerr. “Basically he was a designer in the '80s and he made huge rhinestone earrings. Every time I get them in, they literally fly out. I literally used him as the inspiration to create the line. I had talked about it for a really long time, and then finally, I was like, you know what? Let's try it out.”

While Monsod’s focus for her line is solely earrings at the moment, she has dreams of eventually adding handbags into the mix. “I love mini box bags, and I have this idea to use vintage fabrics with leather lining and gold hardware and making them really lux,” she says. Either way, it’s clear Monsod’s — and Recess’ — future will always be fueled and inspired by the past.

“We're so lucky to have all these periods to look back on from the Victorian to the '20s to the '70s,” she reflects. “We have so much behind us that we can wear and appreciate and learn from. It's just so cool. I wonder if sometimes people think about how lucky we are that we have all these decades to look back on.”