By and  on November 23, 2005

Sir Paul Smith's first West Coast store, in Los Angeles — rectangular, concrete and unabashedly bright pink — will no doubt be a rubbernecker's delight.

But the 5,000-square-foot store at Harper and Melrose Avenues is more than mere eye candy. It is the first U.S. door to carry Smith's women's, men's, accessories and homeware lines under one roof. The store was designed by Smith himself in the style of the late Mexican architect Luis Barragan, who is famous for colorful, graphic shapes.

As for the pink, "I wanted it to be a landmark," Smith said in an interview at his Covent Garden headquarters. "L.A. is a car city, and it's a way to get people to recognize the store quickly. There can only be one bright pink store near Fred Segal."

Smith plans to open pending a city building inspection, and a premiere party is planned at the store on Dec. 8.

This is a watershed moment for Smith, who in 30 years of business under his label, has never seriously courted the U.S. market. Smith sees it as an opportunity for his women's lines, especially.

"There is a big potential here for the women's lines," said Smith, who is better known in the U.S. for his men's wear. "I think if retailers can see the Blue Label line [in place] it will open up a lot of opportunities," said the designer, referring to his catwalk collection, which he shows during London Fashion Week.

"Although we have a loyal base of retailers in the U.S., I've always felt slightly disappointed that U.S. stores in general haven't taken the women's line very seriously. Hopefully, this will be a turning point."

Smith still shows all of his women's lines in London — although most other English designers of his stature left long ago for Paris, New York or Milan — and he does not advertise the women's collections in the U.S. In the U.S., the women's collection sells at stores including Barneys New York, Traffic in Los Angeles and Fred Segal Flair in Santa Monica, Calif.

"Fifteen years ago, the way the U.S. department stores worked didn't fit with my production schedule," the designer said. "Now, we're far more adaptable. We can meet the stores' earlier delivery deadlines and offer the fit and fabric selection they're looking for."

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