By  on September 7, 2007

When Frédéric Fekkai set up shop 10 years ago on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, the biggest celebrities ever to visit Melrose Place were Courtney Thorne-Smith and Heather Locklear — and that was just on television.

The actual street was decidedly unglamorous: a smattering of interior decorating stores and confused tourists were its main highlights. Since then, however, Thorne-Smith has gone on to sitcoms, Locklear has gone through another rocker and Melrose Place has been transformed by a bevy of headlining designers, including Carolina Herrera and Oscar de la Renta, into a powerful retail hub known for more than its "Beverly Hills, 90210" spin-off namesake.

Fekkai is the latest addition to the vaunted Melrose Place roster, opening his first Los Angeles satellite salon this week on the two-block jag that connects Melrose Avenue to La Cienega Boulevard. The new 1,400-square-foot, second-story location could further cement Fekkai's relationship with Hollywood and be a blueprint for future satellite outposts — up to four — arriving in the region.

"Melrose Place was definitely the target. I think it is the premier street in Los Angeles. It is quaint and charming," said Fekkai. "Ten years ago, Rodeo was the only luxury destination in L.A. Now, luxury is pervasive in the market, and we must continue to be in the places where our client is as well."

In contrast to Rodeo, understated elegance defines Melrose Place. Situated above the Lambertson Truex store, the Frédéric Fekkai space has an upscale salon-meets-sophisticated office feel. Black-stained hardwood covers the floors while silver and white lamps illuminate the surroundings and white oak tables at the styling stations.

On one side of the intimate salon is a wrought-iron rimmed patio for manicures and pedicures when the weather is warm, and on the other side is a shampooing area with three black recliners. Designed by S. Russell Groves, the Melrose Place satellite has 10 styling stations, although Fekkai noted that upcoming ancillary salons could have as many as 20 stations in 3,000-square-feet footprints.

Branding is kept to a minimum at the Melrose Place salon, with the exception of select Fekkai elements such as his cursive signature inlaid in silver at the foot of the reception desk. "We want to make sure it is recognizable as Fekkai, but we also want to have the personality of the [geographic] location," said Fekkai of the look of the satellites.With financial help from Catterton Partners, a Greenwich, Conn.-based private equity firm that partnered with Fekkai in 2005, Fekkai said the number of satellite salons could reach 20, including possible Southern California units in San Diego, Palm Springs, Malibu and Newport Beach. Industry sources estimate that Fekkai's salons and products will generate $100 million in sales this year.

"We don't see more than 20 [satellites.] It is a great number to cover our brand. After that, you might lose quality," said Fekkai. Satellites, the first of which opened last January at 394 West Broadway in New York, allow Fekkai to expand with lower staffing and real estate costs than flagships. For example, he said the Rodeo salon has 40 employees, compared with around 15 at Melrose Place.

Building his Southern California presence also gives Fekkai greater opportunities to accommodate celebrity clientele. The privacy of the Melrose Place salon is enticing to paparazzi-stalked stars. Another draw is stylist Adir Abergel, who has handled the manes of Jennifer Garner, Rosario Dawson, Sienna Miller and Camilla Belle, and will work out of the satellite location two to three times per month.

"I don't think he [Fekkai] has really tapped into Hollywood. Editorials in New York don't necessarily translate [in Hollywood]," said Abergel, whose exact role for Fekkai is still being hammered out. "The reason they wanted me involved is that I'm a 29-year-old guy who has these edgy girls mixed with great classy girls. People aren't going to perceive them as being an Upper East Side old ladies salon."

But Fekkai hasn't left his longtime customers behind while he conquers Hollywood. Once the Melrose Place salon is running smoothly, he will turn his attention to renovating the Rodeo flagship. "Right now, we are planning the whole thing to figure out the logistics and design," he said.

Haircuts start at $150 and go up to $750 for a cut with Fekkai himself.

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