LOS ANGELES — This city may indeed suffer a retail glut, as the rant goes, but it hasn’t stopped a cadre of designers from hanging their shingles.
James Perse, Trina Turk, Nanette Lepore and Morgane Le Fay are the latest to open doors here this summer. And Stella McCartney has chosen this town for her third unit, which opens in the fall. Not coincidentally, these stores consistently pop up on hip thoroughfares like Melrose Avenue, Robertson Boulevard and Third Street.
“I think people expect the second half of the year to be better,” said Adrienne Tennant, an analyst with Wedbush Morgan Securities. “And small signs — such as apparel sales starting to do a little bit better — are an indication consumer confidence is starting to get better. I don’t know that the L.A. market is immune to everything on a macro level, but certainly [with] the strength that Hollywood has had during this time period, it probably doesn’t hurt to be opening stores in L.A.”
Last Friday, Perse opened his first store across the street from his father Tommy Perse’s retail landmark, Maxfield, at 8914 Melrose Avenue.
The 2,700-square-foot shop was born out of the T-shirt designer’s desire to express a complete vision of the $20 million-a-year brand, down to the architecture that encapsulates a quasi-retro California spirit. The split-level space — featuring soaring exposed beam ceilings on one side and a dropped plaster roof with recessed lighting on the other — helps create an ambience of “warm minimalism.” The hard-soft theme includes oak hardwood floors offsetting concrete slabs and multipanel sliding glass doors opening onto a patio lined with leafy golden bamboo.
Having grown up with retail, Perse said opening his own store was a no-brainer. “Nothing has felt more natural,” he said. “I wanted to create a place as a laboratory where I can sort out the potential future of the brand, test it with the consumer and know the exact response.”
He plans to relay the store’s findings to such top accounts as Bloomingdale’s, Barneys New York and Fred Segal, among others.
The store houses a complete range of products from James Perse Los Angeles men’s and women’s collections, the basic Standard James Perse line, Baby James and Home James. At the store, women’s stretch cotton dresses and skirts are priced from $97 to $120, cashmere sweaters are tagged at $295 and T-shirts range from $35 to $70. There are even surfboards, emblazoned with “JP Classics since 1972” (Perse’s year of birth), for sale between $1,000 and $1,250.It’s also meant to be a tidy business, with first-year sales expected to top $1.5 million, said Perse. Certainly a sizeable celebrity following, including Sharon Stone, David Schwimmer and Ellen DeGeneres, all of whom turned out for the opening party last Thursday night, can’t hurt its cachet. “I love everything about his line,” gushed DeGeneres. “It’s casual with great fabrics, and he tastes good, too,” she quipped, greeting the boyishly handsome Perse. “I like supporting him.”
For designer Trina Turk, merchandising control and offering a brand showcase are key reasons to open a store. After opening her first boutique last year in Palm Springs, Calif., under the direction of interior design It girl Kelly Wearstler, Turk’s latest 3,300-square-foot store will bow in early November at 8008 West 3rd Street here. This is an increasingly popular stretch connecting the Grove and Beverly Center shopping complexes.
Once again with the help of Wearstler, the new store will be less swank-resort (like the Palm Springs door) and more ladylike. Turk will trade the desert shop’s rattan furniture, acid yellow accents and bamboo-patterned wallpaper for a modern-meets-old-school-department-store theme realized in blush pinks and nude colors. “The colors of makeup,” she said. A wide, V-shaped glass facade with a cluster of round globe lights will be among the other decorative highlights. “We plan to tell a strong story with our store.”
With 40 styles shipping every month, the store will serve as a complete showcase for the line. “Retailers can’t represent everything we do,” said Turk, who expects the Los Angeles store to hit $2 million in first-year sales.
New York-based Nanette Lepore also has a new West Hollywood address. Her 1,200-square-foot boutique opened June 21 at 114 South Robertson Boulevard, near trendy neighbors Kitson and Horn. Lepore, whose boutique carries the collection, also has shops in New York and Tokyo. Analysts said the door could pull in between $1.5 million and $2 million its first year.
And, as reported, Morgane Le Fay, the 21-year-old line favored by women who prefer unfetteredlooks for day, evening and weddings, opened its fourth unit on Brighton Way, just off Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills on July 11. At 1,000 square feet, the store is among the smallest of the company'’s doors, which include locations on Wooster Street and Madison Avenue in New York and Montana Avenue in Santa Monica, Calif. This retail site could notch upward of $1.5 million, according to the designer.“It’s the smallest but sweetest, and I think these types of stores are the direction our business is going in,” said Argentina-born Liliana Casabal, design director and founder, who runs the privately held company with her husband, Carlos. “L.A. is a perfect city for many reasons. Many of my New York clients are from L.A. and vice versa. This store will complement the Montana Avenue store. I know here everyone stays in their neighborhood, so we will get a different client.”
But for every new boutique hitting the market, one has closed. Significant recent closings include Mink Vox and Kenzo on Sunset Boulevard, Dean Hutchinson and Parallel on Robertson Boulevard and NYSE on Beverly Boulevard.
“It’s still a little bit difficult out there,” acknowledged Chuck Dembo, a partner at real estate firm Dembo & Associates, who represented McCartney’s lease on Beverly Boulevard. “The truth of the matter is, you’ve got to just move on with your business. There’s always room for another specialty retailer. That’s what fashion is all about.”
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