LOS ANGELES — Manolo Blahnik-obsessed Carrie Bradshaw on “Sex and the City” gave voice to what a lot of women have said for years: It’s all about the shoes.
So when Diavolina, a revered Los Angeles shoe emporium reopened April 2 on Robertson Boulevard, a faithful following sighed in relief. And now the store has plunged into apparel.
“Before, I did only 10 percent clothing, but now it’s a 60-40 mix,” said co-owner Evelyn Ungvari. “I have more space than I did before, and it’s such a great street for clothing. It’s a whole new world for me, with all the foot traffic and restaurants.”
Diavolina opened on Beverly Boulevard in 1998, and until it closed in 2002 was known for its then-hard-to-find designer shoes from Vivienne Westwood, Sonia Rykiel, Marc Jacobs and Giuseppe Zanotti. It became a favorite among celebrities, stylists and fashionable Angelenos. Ungvari’s second store, which opened on La Brea Avenue in 2000, closed in 2004. She cited a lagging economy, rising rents, low foot traffic and lack of parking — particularly on La Brea — as reasons.
“My girls wear heels. They don’t walk,” Ungvari said.
The store’s latest incarnation is a leopard print-carpeted 2,400-square-foot space that has access to ample parking. Robertson Boulevard is home to boutiques du jour such as Kitson, Lisa Kline and Madison, as well as The Ivy restaurant. Paris Hilton and her posse and Lindsay Lohan are frequent visitors.
Ungvari has teamed with Madison owner Mark Goldstein. He and David Assil founded Madison in 1989 and the two parted in 1995, though they continue to operate stores under the Madison name. Goldstein’s carry apparel; Assil’s do not. The partnership with Ungvari came about when she went to Goldstein for a job.
“I said ‘Why don’t we just relaunch Diavolina?'” Goldstein commented. “It’s an iconic name.”
They have added clothing lines from Issa, Daryl K, Karen Walker and Mayle to Velvet, Splendid and True Religion and bags from Fendi and Bulga.
“I felt that a balanced attack was a good way to go,” Goldstein said. “I seemed to be more profitable as I got into clothing, and it helped increase sales volume.”
While neither Goldstein nor Ungvari will reveal the details of the partnership, he said he is the majority owner. First-year projections for Diavolina are $2 million to $3 million and up, Goldstein said.
On whether the pair was concerned about competing with other retailers, Goldstein said that Madison’s relationships with vendors is one of the keys to what he hopes will prove to be a successful return of Diavolina.
“We have a lot of resources, so we had the ability to trade off some of those [with Diavolina].”
So, might there be another Diavolina outpost if this incarnation proves successful?
“I want to see this one grow and be successful,” Ungvari said. “But one day I would like to open in New York. That would be a dream.”