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Jacobs Makes Mark on Melrose

The new ivy-covered Marc Jacobs store in Los Angeles pays homage to the Art Deco glamour of the city's long-gone retail temples.

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LOS ANGELES — Finally, a Marc Jacobs store Angelenos can call their own.

And what a tribute to this city. The new ivy-covered, 3,500-square-foot Marc Jacobs collections store at Melrose Avenue and Melrose Place, which is to open with a star-filled party tonight, is an homage to the Art Deco glamour of L.A.’s long-gone retail temples.

Ultraluxe details reign, such as fluted Macasa ebony columns and a hall of beveled mirrors leading to dressing rooms.

“It really is a dream realized,’’ said Jacobs’ business partner, company president Robert Duffy, as he put finishing touches on the space. “I remember coming out here with my grandmother when I was 12 and shopping at the old Bullock’s Wilshire. It made such an impression.”

Duffy and his team have been so fixated on completing the store before the party that when actress Kate Capshaw wandered in wanting to shop Tuesday, he misstook her for a friend from New York.

The bell-shaped storefront on Melrose Place evokes a Thirties Hollywood aesthetic, sensual with its curving layout and sycamore wood fixtures and sumptuous in its champagne shades, from the Bernini chandelier that is a ceiling centerpiece to the velvet drapes serving as backdrops to the ready-to-wear collections inside because most of the wall space is taken up by five giant windows.

Yet this is no throwback: The concept, which will be extended to the new Paris door opening this fall, conveys a modernism in a way that only Marc Jacobs can.

Across the street is the new Marc by Marc Jacobs jewel box, its 2,500 square feet chockablock with the kind of bare essentials the locals can’t live without — and which have been blowing out, Duffy said. He finally gave in to enthusiastic customers and opened last weekend. Never mind that there were still merchandisers finessing the place. Some $65,000 of sunglasses and Vans slip-ons, along with plenty of Marc merch, sold in just two days. So, too, did six of the $550 Jacobs-branded surfboards.

Men’s wear is moving as fast as women’s, Duffy said, standing under one of the oversized skylights between the bow trusses, an architectural detail he insisted on leaving exposed. “They’re coming in here with their girlfriends and buying just as much.”

This story first appeared in the March 17, 2005 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Emboldened by these unofficial days of sales, Duffy predicted both spaces could see first-year sales of $15 million to $20 million. “They’ll probably think I’m crazy, but I’ve proven them all wrong before.”

But why so long before opening in L.A.?

“We knew we had fans out there,” Jacobs said by phone from Paris. “But it was a matter of the right place at the right time.”

The designer arrived here late Wednesday, in time to have dinner with pal Anna Sui, who was here to launch her Samsung phone at a party at Fred Segal Flair in Santa Monica Wednesday night.

“I don’t know L.A. very well, not like Robert, who tends to travel more than I do,’’ Jacobs said. “We always thought L.A. was Rodeo Drive. But when we saw the place as an antiques store…I let him indulge his fantasy.”

It took five years of waiting for the store and the imposing billboard above it to become available. Duffy obsessively kept an eye on both pieces of prime real estate. In the meantime, the first Jacobs West Coast door opened in 2000 on Maiden Lane in San Francisco.

Duffy shared vintage books of old Los Angeles retail and hotel landmarks with architect Stephan Jaklitsch, who has designed all the Marc Jacobs projects.

Besides the two retail spaces, there is a 1,500-square-foot storefront turned into a VIP salon, management office and stock house that is catercorner to the collections store. Another same-sized storefront, a door down from the Marc store, also will serve as a stock facility.

Duffy already is taking notes on possible future locations in the artsy neighborhood of Silver Lake and in Orange County. And not just on another retail space.

“I keep thinking I’m going to buy a house out here,” he said. “I’ve been out here 10 times in the last year. I have so many friends here. I’ve so fallen in love with Los Angeles.”

Elsewhere, Duffy said he’s close to signing a lease on a space in Chicago. As for Jacobs, “I would love to have a store in London,” he said. “I find the excitement there I used to feel in New York.” 

But Duffy was quick to note: “I have the green light from LVMH to go’’ as fast as he wants. “Some of our stores are doubling in volume and I want to do it right, keep the integrity.”

Marc Jacobs’ arrival on this sleepy, well-heeled side lane off well-traveled Melrose Avenue marked a turning point. Tracy Feith, Henry Beguelin and Marni have opened there in the last year. The Sally Hershberger at John Frieda salon opened in 2001.

Rents remain at $7 a square foot along Melrose Place compared with $25 a square foot along Rodeo Drive. But it likely won’t be long before rents go up.

“I know it will ultimately change the street we fell in love with,” Duffy said. “I feel bad about it. It happened on Bleecker Street in New York. But besides what we love about this street, I don’t have the luxury of those huge companies to spend $1,000 a square foot for a space. I have to be really responsible.”

Jacobs’ visit to Los Angeles is his first in four years. And while the party is about business, he plans on maximizing his pleasure while he’s here. On Friday, it’s dinner with his friend, interior designer Paul Fortune; and Saturday, he’ll attend a dinner hosted by Anna Wintour for Mario Testino, who is being feted Sunday at the Rodeo Drive Walk of Style.

“I’m really looking forward to the down time, some cultural revitalization,” said Jacobs, who always has been more keen on artists and writers than Hollywood — even though he counts many A-listers among his best friends. “I want to go to MOCA and galleries. I hope to go shopping with Paul for some stuff for my apartment.”

Technicolor is the party theme because of the Spring 2005 collection and the evening’s honoree is The Film Foundation, which is receiving a $100,000 check toward its restoration of cinema classics.

The billboard above the store is blank in order to flash Technicolor classics such as “Peter Pan” and “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” Some 600,000 fresh roses of every color are filling white tents set up on the street on Melrose Place, extending the theme of the six rose-saturated window displays already stopping traffic on Wednesday afternoon.

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