BEVERLY HILLS — Sure it’s a cliché, Michael Kors said, seated on one of two camel-colored, buttery leather sofas in the so-called living room of his first West Coast flagship on Rodeo Drive, “but Los Angeles really is my second home, always has been. So I had to open my second collection store here.”
With the debut today of his 3,500-square-foot collection salon at 360 North Rodeo Drive, Kors makes a grand entrance to the city he visited often as a child after his grandparents moved here in the Seventies and where his mother has lived for 13 years. It opens as the new, better-priced Michael Michael Kors apparel and accessories line rolls out in more than 350 stores nationwide and the designer embarks on an 18-city tour over the next two months, breaking only to show his spring looks at New York Fashion Week on Sept. 14.
The unit represents an evolution of the “residential” concept of Kors’ shop on Madison Avenue in Manhattan, with its rug of thick, snow-white shag and mink throws and pillows on the sofas. Photography books and a Baccarat decanter filled with vodka sit on the oversized square coffee table constructed of Macassar ebony and Lucite. “I want people to hang out, have a drink, put their feet up,” he said.
On top of another slim, high table is a polished stainless steel frame. But instead of the requisite photograph, a video of the fall collection presentation flickers. The custom-created item is high-tech design at its coolest, and among Kors’ favorite things here.
“A lot of people think ‘glamorous’ has to be gilded, rococo,’’ he said. “Or if they hear ‘simple, modern,’ they think it has to be austere. I didn’t want either.” Yet Kors reached something glam and modern with the collaboration of New York-based designer Robin Kramer of Kramer Design Group.
The brushed steel and matte stone facade outside gives way through the glass doors to a high-gloss, spare yet friendly environment inside. The floors are an expanse of polished, pure-white Thassos marble. White linen covers the walls inside the shadow boxes where much of the collection hangs. Accessories, such as a black felt hat or lavender shearling sack, lie on Lucite shelves.Chocolate-brown crocodile skin covers a tall table and ottoman. The back wall is also of the rich Macassar ebony, also known as zebra wood because of its pattern. It, too, was used for several tables and vitrines.
It’s in this wood-appointed area in the back of the store that Kors showcases for the first time his new signature men’s wear. Men can also find eyewear, fragrance and jewelry. Yet the floor space is dominated by women’s ready to wear, handbags, shoes and furs.
The fall 2004 ad campaign included, Kors has used Los Angeles as a favorite backdrop. “I’m not about to become a commuter again,” he said, referring to his six years of travel between New York and designing for Celine in Paris, which formally ended in March. “But now I have a reason to get back here even more. And I will.”
Another reason is his growing circle of celebrity customers. “They can just drop by at the last minute before an event now.” To wit, pop star Jessica Simpson did just that on Tuesday, zeroing in on a white pantsuit trimmed in fur and lavender charmeuse skirt and cami.
Kors said that conjuring “home” also refers to a bygone era of retailing that he reintroduced at his Madison Avenue flagship in 2000. There he channeled an Upper East Side apartment. For Rodeo Drive, where sales along the famed thoroughfare are $800 to $1,200 a square foot, there is the spirit of the great homes of Hollywood.
“I remember all those great Rodeo stores, like Fred Hayman’s and Charles Gallay, where clients could drop by for a cocktail and just hang out,” Kors said. “The shopping experience was something more back then. That’s what I wanted to bring back here.”
Evening looks are expected to thrive here, where film premieres, charity galas and award shows are staples of the social calendar. Shoppers can expect plenty of the “over-the-top looks that might not go over in New York, but look perfectly normal for dinner here,” Kors said.
Since Kors was acquired last year by Lawrence Stroll and Silas Chou through their firm Sportswear Holdings Ltd., the house has been on a roll. Watches, belts, eyewear, footwear and fragrance are among the company’s new licensing agreements under the Michael Michael Kors brand. In June, Kors signed a multiyear worldwide licensing deal with Warnaco Swim, formerly Authentic Fitness, to produce, distribute and market swimwear, coverups and related accessories under better-priced and collection brands. Warnaco Swim is a division of Warnaco Group Inc.Kors is also looking forward to the opening of a 2,000-square-foot collection unit in Manhasset, N.Y., in September. London is up next, though a location has yet to be picked.
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