GIORGIO GETS ELBOW ROOM

Byline: Michael Marlow

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif.--Giorgio Beverly Hills has come out of its closet.
After six years in a cramped boutique, the Rodeo Drive retailer has busted out into an airy and sunlit 6,700-square-foot store at 327 North Rodeo Drive. It's a combination of the old store and the former Ted Lapidus store next door, giving Giorgio 2 1/2 times more space and room for a curbside cafe, an art gallery and a terrace courtyard with a flower garden and fountain.
The store is expected to ring up between $4 million and $5 million in sales its first year, sources said. The old boutique, a skinny 2,600-square-foot slice of Rodeo, did an estimated $1 million annually.
Giorgio was founded in 1961 as a haberdashery boutique by a group including Fred Hayman. In the Seventies, the store developed a reputation for attracting Hollywood clientele, including Johnny Carson, Zsa Zsa Gabor and Nancy Reagan.
In 1982, Hayman launched the phenomenal fragrance named after the boutique, as the business grew to become a symbol of the opulent and glitzy lifestyle of Beverly Hills.
In 1987, Hayman sold the company to Avon for $165 million and in January 1989, he renamed his store Fred Hayman Beverly Hills.
Also in 1989, Avon opened the small Giorgio shop with the notion of finding space for a larger boutique one day. Last fall, the company was sold to Procter & Gamble, which carried out the idea. Giorgio has become a tourist attraction, but visitors since 1989 have generally been let down by its small scale. Now, with the redesign, Giorgio is renewing its image and should satisfy a bigger audience, those who want to shop Beverly Hills, but can't afford Armani, or seek a place to relax and enjoy the California sun. The cafe offers Giorgio brand mineral water and other nonalcoholic drinks for free and sells beer and wine. Unlike some of Beverly Hills' tonier shops, Giorgio encourages tourists to take pictures inside the store. One room in the boutique features only Giorgio items, including watches, accessories, fragrances and T-shirts. Gift sets are priced from $25 to $1,000, a wide range for Rodeo Drive. Other rooms feature Giorgio merchandise interspersed with goods from other vendors, including scarves, ties, picture frames, jackets, vases and apparel and accessories.
Up to 50 percent of the merchandise in the store is non-Giorgio, including Maria Pinto apparel and scarves; Recycled Revolution accessories; Bottle Cap handbags, backpacks and jewelry; Bradley Levin handbeaded handbags, belts and home accessories; Renegade by Ren Ellis leather jackets; and K. Baumann Designs handbeaded handbags and women's accessories.
Giorgio Beverly Hills is in the heart of Rodeo Drive, on the same block as Gucci, Salvatore Ferragamo and HermAs, but its ambience is different. From a skylight, sunlight bounces off yellow walls and the scent of Giorgio permeates the air. Floors are yellow and gray stone, and there's a center courtyard enhanced by a trickling fountain. The front of the boutique is set off by a large awning featuring Giorgio's trademark yellow and white stripes.
"We wanted to bring the outdoors in and the indoors out," said Pam Lloyd, director of retail stores for Giorgio. "That's what California is all about."
Giorgio's grand opening was Wednesday night, with a benefit for MusiCares Foundation, a recording industry charity. The event, which also trumpeted the return of the Grammy Awards to Los Angeles, attracted more than 500 guests and hundreds of onlookers who clogged Rodeo to star-gaze.
Among those who attended was Donna Summer, the disco diva, who currently has a showing of her paintings in the store's gallery. Summer also designed a scarf that was sold by Giorgio to raise funds for MusiCares.
Actress Julie Newmar said the yellow interior reminded her of ice cream. "It's lemon yellow, and nothing makes you feel better than yellow," she said. "It also makes you want to spend money. Giorgio is smart."
Gilbert Dembo, a prominent Westside realtor, said the design brings excitement back to retail. "Take a look at these bathrooms," Dembo said. "They've got yellow and white stripe tile walls. Only in California."
"This boutique is our heritage," said Linda LoRe, chairman and chief executive officer of Giorgio. "We don't have a designer. We don't have a Calvin Klein. It all started in a boutique in 1961, and with the fragrance in 1982. It's really great to have a presence again.
"Let's face it, glamour is back, but it's back in a different way than it was in the Eighties," LoRe added. "People now are drawn to the funky, fun thing. It's not overglitzed, but it is glamour."

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