“It’s funny, some people don’t know about me,” said designer Mark Zunino, who was tucked away in the office of his new Beverly Hills atelier Thursday night. “I’m the guy they go to when they want something exclusive.” However, lavish dresses in the store windows, a red carpet overflowing onto the sidewalk and incessant camera flashes might have tipped locals off to the opening party. The space is normally shielded from prying eyes by opaque windows.
“We’re private,” Zunino said. “So whoever has the appointment has the entire building catering to them. It’s a very exclusive atmosphere.”
The 5,500-square-foot building, featuring marble floors and mirrored walls reaching 18-foot ceilings with crown moldings, drew admirers such as Stassi Schroeder, Lucy Walsh, Donna Mills, Fran Drescher and Beverly Johnson, who professed, “I love, love, love this,” as she stood among the models holding petite “Mark Zunino” placards.
With a client list that has included the late Elizabeth Taylor as well as Sophia Loren, Serena Williams, Angelina Jolie, Sofía Vergara and Halle Berry, it’s no surprise that the atelier received a couple of pre-fete visitors during its move.
“Right as we were boxing up at our old location Beyoncé came in,” Zunino said of dressing the star for the first time. “My staff is calling me like ‘Hey, get in here, Beyoncé’s here.’ I thought they were kidding, and I didn’t go in at first. I went to the gym. They called me again and said ‘Beyoncé’s here’ and I said ‘Stop the jokes.’ It turns out Beyoncé was there.”
The designer also recalled a similar moment with another luminary. “The very first day that we were moving in, Julia Roberts was shooting a Lancôme commercial and didn’t like the wardrobe that was made for her. Within a day and a half, we came up with clothes for the shoot.”
Although the location is equipped with a sewing room and staff outfitted in white smocks to create dresses, which start at $5,000, there were no fashion emergencies on opening night. Guests gleefully floated from room to room with mini Moët bottles in hand and the option of caviar, tuna tartare, steak crostinis and mini hamburgers to keep them occupied while fawning over the gowns. Lisa Vanderpump even considered wedding dresses saying, “I might have to get married again.”
With the 73rd Golden Globe Awards days away, and two nominated clients, Laverne Cox and Lily Tomlin, confirmed to wear his work, Zunino plans on watching the ceremony with friends in his home. There’s also the possibility of three other starlets walking the carpet in his work, but “they also have another designer,” he said. “So there are two designers rivaling it out to see who’s going to wear what which also makes it exciting.”