By  on February 6, 2006

LOS ANGELES - Carolina Herrera is coming to Melrose Place in April.

The once sleepy thoroughfare here is a sizzling retail destination and New York-based Carolina Herrera Ltd. has leased a 3,800-square-foot storefront at 8841 Melrose Place to be a West Coast flagship, said Lisette Ballard, company director of retail.

"This is a very big move for us," said Ballard, noting this is Herrera's second store after the opening of a flagship on Manhattan's Madison Avenue in 2000 and that the designer is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the brand this year. "We are in the process of creating a retail plan, and this is the next step in that strategy."

With 3,000 square feet of selling space, the boutique will feature the complete signature ready-to-wear, fur and bridal collections, as well as Judith Leiber bags, Faraone Mennella jewelry and the Manolo Blahnik footwear designed each season for the Herrera collection.

Herrera joins a rush of designers who have set up in the last 18 months along Melrose Avenue west of Fairfax Avenue, and the side street Melrose Place, including Marc Jacobs, Diane von Furstenberg, Marni and Tracy Feith. Herrera's boutique is across from the Sally Hershberger Salon.

Shady, tree-lined Melrose Place was once a destination for upscale antique shops, which are now becoming endangered as the fashion flock discovers it as an alternative to Rodeo Drive and Robertson Boulevard.

"Everyone wants a store in L.A.," said Ballard, "Rodeo is good for brand positioning, but for business? Not really. But where do you go if you're looking for something with character, something that those other popular shopping destinations don't offer? But Melrose has become such a place. It doesn't feel touristy, it's more personal, very charming."

Herrera's new space comes with plenty of charm, too. Before it was an antique lighting store, it was a chapel, Ballard said. "The front half is a very open room with vaulted ceilings. It's a clean, open space, so we're lucky."

The flagship here is being built in the image of its East Coast counterpart, which was renovated in 2005 with exotic woods such as Macassar ebony and custom-made furniture, brown and beige striped shantung fabrics and taupe carpeting.The Carolina Herrera brand represents worldwide retail sales of more than $400 million.

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