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From racks to tracks

September 23, 2007|Adam Tschorn | Times Staff Writer

When Brett Brooks and Jeremy Wineberg launched a record label from the floor of the Ron Herman store on Melrose 14 months ago, the move seemed natural enough. The store's bleeding-edge style, celebrity clientele and frenzied musical backbeat had rock 'n' roll written all over it.

Today, the label, Invisible DJ, has signed five acts and released a handful of compilation albums, including two for Herman and one for Juicy Couture that will drop later this year.

It's been quick business for Brooks, the men's buyer for Ron Herman, who started by choosing mood music for the store. "I'd include all these cool bands I found on buying trips to Paris and London that no one had heard of yet, like Daft Punk and Zero 7," he said. "Then customers started asking where they could buy it."

Music aficionado Wineberg, now a senior at Cal State Northridge, was one of the customers and, with Brooks' help, put two and two together, figuring that the store, known for giving new designers a break, could offer the same opportunity to rock bands. (The name of their label is a tip of the hat to Vogue editor Anna Wintour, who once requested at a dinner party that the DJ be placed out of sight of the guests.)

The strategy had a certain logic. "When you have people like Kanye West shopping in the store and asking, 'What's playing?' it's great exposure," Wineberg said.

The Invisible DJ roster has grown to include Seems So Bright, the English Department, the GoStation, Harlem Shakes and Los Angeles quintet Mighty Six Ninety. In addition to signing and developing new talent, aided by the aural exposure of the Ron Herman sales floor, Brooks and Wineberg hope to expand their role as niche mix masters for the apparel-retail set to other companies such as Gap and American Apparel.

"The tracks on the Ron Herman compilation have a sunny disposition with a little bit of Southern California frenzy," Brooks said. "For American Apparel, it would be more electronica with a little indie rock flavor. Something that fits with the mood of the fluorescent lights."

The release of the Juicy Couture compilation (which Wineberg described as upbeat with a couple of female-fronted acts) is expected to coincide with the opening of the label's Rodeo Drive flagship later this year, a move that is bound to make Invisible DJ a lot more visible.

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adam.tschorn@latimes.com

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