BEVERLY HILLS — Emboldened by new owner The Yucaipa Cos. LLC, Garrard is ready to compete with the big guns on Rodeo Drive.
The London jeweler, established in 1735, will officially open a two-level, 3,600-square-foot U.S. flagship today on the heavyweight retail thoroughfare. Lined with awnings in its signature raspberry color, the second-story store joins Georg Jensen, Tiffany & Co. and Gucci Fine Jewelry at Two Rodeo, an intimate open-air shopping center across the street from the famed Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons hotel.
"You need to be here to actually be able to show that you are in the luxury business, to be able to captivate that clientele," said Garrard chief executive officer Robert Procop, who scouted Beverly Hills locations all last year before settling on the former spot of Badgley Mischka and Escada Sport.
Two Rodeo's ample parking, private entrance and European feel were key selling points.
Architect Jordan Mozer and interior designer Thomas Bartlett executed Garrard's store concept, which relies heavily on natural light to illuminate the jewels. A centerpiece circular, waist-high limestone-and-rosewood vestibule topped with jewelry cases emphasizes the round store's curves, and chandeliers by Wilkinson plc add sparkle.
"From a construction standpoint, it is not something that you are going to see most people do," Susan Moseley, Garrard's U.S. retail director, said of the round shape. "It was really important for us to create a romantic feel. When you walk in, you feel yourself wanting to wander through the store. It is a relaxing energy that is created when you have less angles and more curves."
Moseley, who has 13 years of Rodeo Drive experience working with Bulgari and Versace, explained that Garrard's store would serve a mix of tourists mostly staying in Beverly Hills hotels, local walk-in shoppers and private clients. To raise awareness of the brand in the U.S., the store's launch will be feted with a party today and a series of in-store events. Advertising, primarily in magazines, will follow later this year in the U.K. and U.S.
"We are going to attract a lot of the local business that over the years has learned to shop when they are on vacation in other cities and countries,'' Moseley said. "They don't have a strong connection to somebody that is here. Other retailers have lost some of that business and that is what we are going to gain."Garrard is set apart from its Beverly Hills competitors by its focus on big and colored stones, Moseley and Procop said. One-of-a-kind pieces in the store for the opening include the $6.2 million, 99-carat Cleopatra Sapphire and the $6.5 million, 104.15-carat Great Chrysanthemum brown orange pear-shaped diamond.
"People in the U.S. are now going to see that we have those [large stone] abilities, plus we have a design component that not many that deal with the bigger stones have," Moseley said. "That is going to separate us from the other jewelers on the street and probably put us in the top couple that most people would first think of in the U.S. as the carriers of the largest stones."
In Los Angeles, where the fashion element is crucial to lure Hollywood clients, Moseley speculated that cocktail rings with colored gems and items from Garrard's iconic Wings Collection would be popular picks.
"L.A. is a city where people love to wear color," she said. "They are not afraid of it."
Moseley, who helped dress celebrities for Versace, noted that the entertainment industry is "important" for Garrard and that the brand would consider opportunities to bedazzle celebrities as they arise.
"Because of [Garrard's] strength in London and the crossover in talent between London and here, there are a lot of celebrities who love Garrard already and have been generous in wanting to wear it, and not expecting gifting and payment," she said. "My philosophy has been that if you love it enough, then you just want to wear it and not really any other conversation needs to exist about payment. The brand is going to attract people naturally."
Garrard got a dash of corporate celebrity in March 2006 when billionaire Ron Burkle's company, Yucaipa, purchased the firm from Asprey International for an estimated $20 million to $30 million. The Yucaipa deal came just three days after a management buyout put Sciens Capital Management and Plainfield Asset Management in control of Garrard and Asprey, another high-end British jeweler founded in the 18th century.
Garrard's history is closely intertwined with the British royalty. The company's founder, George Wickes, was a goldsmith to the Prince of Wales. Queen Victoria declared Garrard the Crown jeweler in 1843 and the brand has been a choice of successive monarchs. Symbols of Garrard's three royal warrants for silversmithing, goldsmithing and jewelry hang on the Rodeo Drive store's wall.Former owner Prince Jefri Bolkiah, the younger brother of the Sultan of Brunei, combined Garrard with Asprey in 1998 in an effort to create a British luxury goods powerhouse. That effort foundered as Bolkiah's business empire quickly crumbled, leaving him buried under hundreds of millions of dollars of debt.
Last month, Burkle added Stephen Webster to Yucaipa's jewelry assets, fueling speculation that Garrard creative director Jade Jagger, whose contract expired last year, would be replaced by Webster. Seeking to dispel the rumors, Garrard spokeswoman Imogen Scrutton said the company has put out an offer to Jagger to design an additional collection. Webster has also designed a capsule men's collection for De Beers.
"We have a great relationship with Jade," said Scrutton, who wouldn't elaborate on the terms of the offer. As far as Webster possibly entering the Garrard fold, she added, he wasn't going to "as far as I know at this stage."
Procop declined to comment on Burkle's plans for Garrard, the company's projected revenues this year or anticipated sales for the Beverly Hills store. Last year, Gianluca Brozzetti, Asprey's group chief executive officer, told WWD that Garrard's sales were estimated to reach $7.5 million in the fiscal year ending March 2006.
"We have exceeded our expectations," said Los Angeles-bred Procop. "Our shareholders have been very supportive and obviously infused the right capital to grow."
Next year, Garrard will kick off a program that allows customers to purchase a diamond designed especially for them by master cutter Gabi Tolkowsky. The company is also looking for a retail location in New York, where it now has an appointment-only salon on Spring Street that's about one-fifth the size of the Beverly Hills store.
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Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
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