By  on September 26, 2006

LOS ANGELES — Carolina Herrera has joined the ranks of designer boutiques on Melrose Avenue.

Here in a former church, the designer has opened a 3,800-square-foot store that carries the Carolina Herrera New York collection, the designer’s bridal line and sunglasses, as well as accessories from Judith Leiber, Manolo Blahnik and Faraone Mennella.

“I adore this street,” said Herrera. “It has character. When I went looking, I thought, This is a very special place. Rodeo Drive is more for tourists now, isn’t it?”

As for the decor, central to which are two curvy sofas in the designer’s signature brown-and-beige satin stripe, Herrera said she was inspired by Parisian designer and decorator Jean-Michel Frank. “I wanted to create something that has simplicity but also is cozy,” she said on a rare visit to Los Angeles. “No neon lights. I like something that makes you feel like you are in your sitting room.”

Before launching the store, trips to Los Angeles for the Venezuelan-born New Yorker were relegated to the days surrounding the Academy Awards. “I always go to the Vanity Fair Oscar party,” she said. “I love to go…because you see all of the stars there at the same time.”

But the debut of the flagship as well as the opening last month of a store for her diffusion line, CH Carolina Herrera, at the South Coast Plaza shopping center in Costa Mesa, Calif., mean she likely will visit the state more often now.

Herrera said being in Los Angeles is important for the brand because it has become “much more fashionable” since she entered the industry in 1980. “Years ago, the stars were dressed by designers, but it was much more like a costume, like Cher. [Actors] make an effort now — some of them, not all. I have to be honest! So many girls are looking the same. They wear clothes that are too tight or too big. Usually too tight, with their [chests] spilling over.”

The designer added she loves working with Renée Zellweger, and lauds the actress for foregoing a stylist. “She always looks fantastic. Her main interest is in being a great actress, and she knows exactly how she wants to present herself. She knows how to move, too. Every angle, she looks perfect. And also, she likes fittings…because she likes to feel like the dress is part of her.”Carolina Herrera now operates two flagships for her main collection — the other is in New York — and five CH Carolina Herrera stores in the U.S., with a sixth launching in Dallas’ NorthPark shopping center by the end of September.

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