by Asher Edelman
In his new book Please Do Not Touch (and Other Things You Could Not Do at Moss the Design Store that Changed Design), its namesake and co-owner Murray Moss quotes the Czech architect and designer Bořek Šípek: “The only real justification for the designer to create another chair is if he treats it like a work of art and uses it to express or interrupt the culture of the moment.”
A similar notion started Murray’s successful quest to merge “design” into “art” at MOSS, the design store. It was 1990. The rest is history.
MOSS literally rubbed shoulders with Art and the Art Audience. Murray opened his “gallery” in SoHo between Metro Pictures and Pace. Their clients would see his “Art” in the windows of MOSS. It was the design store that changed design and how it was labeled. Ever since, great design has ceased to be a stepchild: it’s become great art.
Murray and his partner, Franklin Getchell, have been my close friends for almost 40 years. All I have to say about this extraordinary book and these wonderful “boys” (yes, still boys) is highly colored by that reality. Sadly, there is, within, a chapter about me. I think it is best you skip that chapter. Those pages are grossly exaggerated fiction, not worthy of the authors. So high is that chapter’s unreality that I have commissioned them to write my obituary with the same fictional license. In summary, DO NOT READ the chapter.
Most of you know about MOSS, the design theater, though nominally a store, a university of taste, a fantasy land always in action, serving up tasty morsels for grown-ups. I need not tell you more about MOSS, nor about Murray and Franklin, nor is this a book review. Rather, it’s a small collection of vignettes, and there are infinitely more to be discovered reading Please Do Not Touch.
MOSS, the acknowledged premium curated design store of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, lighted upon a novel idea: a wedding registry—complete with a proper registrar to tend to the couples. Murray, who had no interest in decanters, was persuaded by the registrar to stock decanters for the lovebirds’ needs. And MOSS became a “decanter center.” Sadly, it seemed a habit of newlyweds to return most of the decanters and most everything else they registered for, too. So the boys invented a new registry model: automatic prereturns of all “registry account” orders and a credit to the bride and groom. The happy couple was informed of the purchase, the purchaser, the credit to the account, and the nature of the “prereturned” gift. Our lovebirds could then choose at leisure items they really liked rather than the ones they registered for. A thank-you note for the original gifts could be sent and MOSS did not have to carry returned inventory, as it never filled any registry orders. This is one of a number of brilliant business decisions made by Murray and Franklin, which resulted in its all-registry business vaporating instantly.
All design stores are focused on weddings—seriously a moment of excess spending for the lovebirds’ nests. MOSS followed in the footsteps of wedding providers with some quite advanced products. A first-rate seller, Gay Marriage Finger Puppets, consisting of two brides, two grooms and a minister, became a most sought-after accessory. Speaking of weddings—another conflict—I am to officiate at the wedding of these two special people. They have refused my offer of a Latin ceremony and insist on English—no costumes either.
Which does not mean they lack a sense of humor. Did you know the MOSS logo was derived from the Oscar Mayer hot dog logo?
Then, there’s the absurdity inspired by the opening of MOSS in 2006 in Los Angeles. “I don’t know exactly what form of English they’re speaking out there,” Franklin writes, “but it sure isn’t the same as mine. Dude, it’s not that there’s anything wrong with one-syllable words…there are some terrific one-syllable words and some great one-syllable word sentences. Fries with that? Can you spot me? And, of course, Have a nice day.” Or, as Franklin also says, “Life in L.A. Like death, only shorter.”
Please Do Not Touch is full of similar fun and absurdities—a double self-inflicted spoof—but, most of all, it’s the story of Murray and Franklin, my friends, and their design store that changed the face of design.