By  on October 15, 2007

BEVERLY HILLS — Juicy Couture opened its first flagship here Friday on North Rodeo Drive, and co-founders Pamela Skaist-Levy and Gela Nash-Taylor intend to infuse the legendary shopping street with a shot of youth and fun.

"The L.A. girls are on Rodeo Drive," crowed Skaist-Levy, her eyes brimming with tears of joy.

The pair ran through the 5,000-square-foot store at 465 North Rodeo Drive Thursday — the brand's largest and the first to carry all its merchandise — as the paint and trim were being finished, trying on clothes and jumping in the windows to wave at passersby.

"It makes sense for us to be here for what we have done in the fashion community, and I think we've come up to what Rodeo Drive is,'' Skaist-Levy said. "Couture Couture speaks to that Rodeo customer and Juicy Couture brings a new younger customer. We are bringing life into Rodeo and it's exciting for our customers to see how we express it."

The flagship's Couture Couture line sells for $600 to $2,800; jeans, $225 to $260; dresses, $250 to $400; bags, $225 to $575, and tracksuits, $180.

The space, formerly three art galleries located between Ralph Lauren and Brooks Brothers, underwent four months of construction to become the pastel-hued manifestation of the brand that has come to represent California chic. Juicy also has Los Angeles-area stores in Malibu and Century City.

Philip Johnson, Juicy's vice president of store design and creative services, combined the aesthetic of Skaist-Levy's and Nash-Taylor's own homes with the colorful, graphic sensibility of Juicy's signature T-shirts.

"It's the aesthetic of a California girl who marries a rocker guy and lives in a manor house with a total irreverence about the architecture and the beauty there, tagging the walls and furniture and painting over oil paintings," he said, referring to the English country home Nash-Taylor shares with her husband, Duran Duran bassist John Taylor.

The first floor and winding staircase are covered in Calcutta gold marble, and the ceilings have Jacobian-style moldings. Instead of the traditional stag or ram heads that might be found on the walls at a country estate, the plastic-mold animals hanging in the store are bright green and pink, sporting long eyelashes and jewelry.Two separate areas flanking the main entrance house the higher-end Couture Couture line and the shoe collection. The Juicy fashion collection, tracksuits, pet accessories, fragrances, kids' and sunglasses each have dedicated areas in the center of the store. A color-blocked dining room table in the middle of the floor displays jewelry.

Even the most genteel pieces of furniture sport catch phrases such as "Buy Me Stuff" and "Go Couture Yourself." An oil painting is spray-painted with the words "Let Them Eat Couture," and a surfboard on one wall reads "Dude, Where's My Couture?"

The upstairs loft, where the men's collection is housed, has the look of a billiard room with parquet herringbone floors, a leather couch and a gold knight in armor propped next to the fireplace. There is also an obligatory VIP lounge.

"There's a humor to the whole thing, because if you spend any time with those girls you know they have a good time,'' Johnson said. "They wanted a place specific to Beverly Hills where they could bring their friends and hang out. It's truly their home."

Although some of the newer Juicy stores, such as the one in Palm Beach, Fla., have the same flair, Nash-Taylor said the flagship, the company's 34th store "is the most C.Z. Guest version," adding, "We want each of our stores to have a different flavor. We don't want to turn out cookie-cutter boxes all over the world."

With plans to have 39 stores by Dec. 31 and 60 by the close of 2008, there seems to be no end in sight for Juicy's aspirations. The company wants to open 47stores and shop-in-shops in China over the next three years, and five in Russia. A 9,000-square-foot New York flagship on Fifth Avenue is slated for August 2008.

"I don't get nervous that we are spreading ourselves too thin," said Nash-Taylor, who declined to give sales estimates, adding that all of the stores have exceeded expectations. "As long as we keep meeting our customers' needs and controlling the product, it's going to be great. A few years ago people thought we would be off drinking mai tais on the beach, but we are still working really hard and having lots of fun. You can spend all you want on branding, but people need to feel what goes into the product is fun and energetic."

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