By  on February 9, 2010

BEVERLY HILLS — Missoni is making a statement with the opening of a flagship — the brand’s first California store — on Rodeo Drive here after three years of planning in a period marked by global economic turmoil.

“When we started this, we didn’t suspect anything about the coming recession,” chief executive officer Vittorio Missoni said. “We signed the lease then, and there it all went. But we knew we needed to be in L.A. We got a great spot, and we had to open the store.”

Missoni said he expects sales at the 7,500-square-foot Beverly Hills boutique, which launched Saturday, to soon outstrip the unit on Madison Avenue in Manhattan.

“I think the L.A. market will perform better for us than New York,” he said. “The brand is such a natural fit for the West Coast, where people have a relaxed attitude and the look is easy and natural. New York has been deeply challenged in the last year for us. These are hard times.”

The boutique sells a full range of Missoni items and clothing, including the full men’s and women’s lines, an expanded array of the swim and beachwear collections and sunglasses. There are decorative candles for $360, signature Missoni scarves, $175, reversible bikinis, $405, and caftans, $1,075.

The boutique is on the northwest corner of Rodeo Drive, at Little Santa Monica Boulevard, an ultramodern white building with floor-to-ceiling glass doors, skylights and an intricate woven steel design along the building’s exterior.

The store had been three separate boutiques, including the former Theodore space and a florist shop. Combining the spaces and building out the new store took more than a year. All the furniture and fixtures were custom-made in Italy.

“It took a long time, and we had to wait because of the economy,” said creative director Angela Missoni. “The fixtures and doing everything custom was tremendously expensive, but I have a lot of hope in the L.A. market.”

That hope includes launching another Missoni boutique in Malibu, Calif., this year.

In Beverly Hills, the open, gallerylike space is stark white, with intricate glass and wood display cases and fixtures. The store was designed with a number of smaller rooms off a long, brightly lit corridor that house different parts of the collection.

The wide main hallway, with ceilings that are 26 feet high in some places, leads to a chartreuse light box mounted against the store’s main wall — a focal point for displays and the area of the store dedicated to the Missoni Home collection. A VIP area with a separate entrance is just off the large home collection area.

The design concept will be unique to Los Angeles, and eventually the store will carry pieces designed exclusively the Los Angeles market, Angela Missoni said.

“It’s meant to be as though you are walking down the street and the rooms are all the boutiques, like separate little shops dedicated to accessories, sunglasses, men’s, women’s and the home collection,” said Antonio Monfreda, who designed the store and oversaw the construction with colleague Patrick Kinmonth.

Missoni has about 30 stores worldwide, including a new unit in São Paulo, with doors to open this year in Brasilia and Saudi Arabia. There are also plans for Missoni stores in Shanghai and Beijing.

The brand is pursuing expansion of its hotel chain franchise, a partnership with Rezidor Hotel Group. The first Hotel Missoni opened in Edinburgh last year and a new hotel will open in Kuwait this year. The hotels are intended as a vehicle for the Missoni Home collection.

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