BEVERLY HILLS — There’s an almost shocking lightness of being in the new Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche flagship opening here on Rodeo Drive today.
Sunlight deluges the foyer through 18-foot plate windows, surrounded by white lacquer arches, and, distinct to this door, through skylights overhead. It pours through a skinny rectangle in the second-level dressing salon, and the dusky, floor-to-ceiling windows in the top floor’s white VIP apartment — which looks outside onto what is among the biggest surprises, a secret Zen garden.
Just a month since opening the East 57th Street showcase in New York, and more than two years after first looking at this famous drive, the latest incarnation in Tom Ford’s evolving YSL retail concept nudges his “elegant brutality” aesthetic slightly out of the dark side.
The 11,000-square-foot space continues many of the defining touches unveiled in the Manhattan flagship: chopped, hand-hewn wood table blocks; expanses of smoky mirrors; inky glass and polished chrome Art Deco accents. But neither Ford nor architect William Soffield could evidently resist the opportunity to let California’s perennially sunny light steal into the store, and the even more liberal use of reflecting shades of white and endless mirrors.
“Beverly Hills is definitely conceived as a bit whiter,” Mark Lee, president of Yves Saint Laurent, said Monday by telephone from Paris. “The facade is double height to allow natural light to pour in. There is definitely a feeling that is unique to Los Angeles.” Lee said he plans to visit the finished store at the end of the month.
Ford, who was unavailable for comment, will host a grand opening in October.
“Los Angeles is the second most important market in America, and it’s something we started looking into in early 2000,” continued Lee. “We always considered Rodeo. It was only a question of the right space and the right deal.”
The location, at 326 North Rodeo Drive, formerly claimed Bernini Sport, which shared a wall with the building that now houses the new Chopard boutique. That common divider was severed as part of the completely new construction of this YSL store.In keeping with its signature vertical orientation, another level was added. It is visually emphasized from the storefront by “floating” iron buttresses — the top level is actually set back. At a 90-degree angle, these highly polished black “tailfins” suggest modern renditions of the original, more V-like architectural elements once raised around this city in ode to the region’s favorite mode of transport.
Inside, the scale — longer, taller, grander — is further affected by black-and-white mirrors. A 15-foot, lit vanity mirror dominates the north wall in the foyer. A long, lead-framed light fixture bookended by mirrors in the shoe salon appears to stretch into eternity. Below isa 16-foot, ebony calfskin day bed.
An imposing staircase covered in black and smoked mirror, with concrete steps honed as wood grain (also unique to this store) and a wall upholstered in pale silver satin, is crowned by a polished aluminum and glass tube pendant lamp, and a steel and glass Juliet balcony that goes a step further in statement and size than the original in New York.
Like its flagship counterpart in Gotham, the ground floor is dedicated to YSL’s more lucrative accessories and footwear businesses, as well as a vanity nook for YSL Beauté. But, Lee noted, since this is YSL’s first Los Angeles flagship, all of the categories are fully represented versus the accessories emphasis of the new Manhattan store.
The second level, featuring two snow- white Mongolian lamb sectionals, belongs to women’s and men’s ready-to-wear, now showing fall.
Upstairs, VIPs — celebrity or otherwise — can sprawl out on yet another white calfskin-covered day bed while inspecting looks hanging from a sculpturally sleek white leather and polished chrome rack suspended from the ceiling and backdropped by the Zen garden outside. The yet-to-be furnished garden will feature an oversized chunk of anthracite and a rectangle of raked gravel.
The company declined to reveal sales forecasts for the Beverly Hills unit. But real estate sources expect projected sales of $700 to $800 a square foot annually, and with 6,700 square feet of spelling space, that comes out to between $4.7 million and$5.4 million.
This is the company’s first door in the Los Angeles area, and fourth on the West Coast, with addresses on San Francisco’s Union Square, in Costa Mesa’s South Coast Plaza and Las Vegas’ Bellagio Hotel. The next store opens in the Americana Manhasset center on Long Island in August. By yearend, 59 YSL stores will be operating worldwide.
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