By  on February 18, 2005

BEVERLY HILLS — For Roberto Cavalli, opening his dream store on Rodeo Drive has been an exercise in patience and determination.

Although it took less than three months to build the 3,016-square-foot, two-level boutique here — a near record in these parts — finding the space took a handful of years and almost as many personal visits.

“It…aged me that many” years.  Cavalli said, jokingly, on Tuesday, hours before an opening party that drew fans such as Mischa Barton, Christina Aguilera, Mary J. Blige and Salma Hayek.

But the silver-haired designer was characteristically relaxed, as he smoked a cigar, even when noting his Just Cavalli presentation was bowing in Milan on Monday. (A Just Cavalli store opened last month about three miles north in Sunset Plaza.)

“I love the casual yet glamorous style of Los Angeles,” he said. “This is a very precious place.”

His new digs reflect that opinion.

The store is only casual à la Cavalli: A trio of wavy-haired mannequins in aviator glasses are sprawled on a table underneath a grand, faux coral chandelier behind the plateglass front window. Zebra-covered ottomans are positioned throughout the store, some on top of deep chocolate-colored Dankalia pony rugs.

But it’s the floor that visitors can’t stop marveling at: The pale-gold, stardust-filled resin gives the impression that vats of sparkling, pearly nail lacquer were generously poured throughout. It continues up each step into the 600-square-foot VIP salon upstairs, appointed with a curving pale gold tuck-and-roll sofa, a bar and a large flat plasma screen.

“I want to offer haute couture in the atelier,” Cavalli said. “I would like so much to bring a little back of haute couture. I feel designers are running away from it. But haute couture is one piece for one special person for one special event.” And that, he added, is perfectly attuned to Los Angeles, with all its red carpet goings-on.

The space is filled with other standout details by the Venetian artists brought in to complete the installations, from the walls plastered with real gold flecks burnished to vintage effect to wall tiles of python-imprinted bronzed brass. The counter consists of three ovals of varying sizes, covered in bright gold leaf.Ceiling-to-floor curtains of hand-strung, opalescent Swarovski crystals are tracked to allow reconfiguration each season, allowing for a new floor plan with each delivery. It’s valued at more than $100,000.

The shop is expected to ring in annual retail sales of almost $10 million, a company executive said. It stocks Roberto Cavalli women’s, men’s, footwear, watches, handbags and fragrance, as well as the new home scents. Additional homewares and lingerie will arrive in the coming weeks.

Next in Cavalli’s retail plan? “I’m heading east,” he said. “I’m looking at Honolulu, then Shanghai. That is definitely the next place to be.”

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