BEVERLY HILLS — The retail action on Rodeo Drive isn’t letting up. Less than a week after the ballyhooed Prada Epicenter debut, the Italian luxury house Etro on Monday opened its first West Coast store a block away.
Etro, known for its bold, colorful textiles and embellished scarves, has unveiled a 3,700-square-foot boutique at 461 North Rodeo Drive. Flanked by Lana Marks and Frette, the classically turned-out store is indicative of the company’s success in the U.S. since it opened stores in 2000 in New York along with a wholesale showroom, company executives said.
The U.S. operation pulls in more than $30 million a year, including wholesale business through Barneys New York, Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus, as well as two stores that bowed in 2002 in Miami and Coral Gables, Fla. The company is planning more shops in the West, negotiating for space in South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, Calif., and at the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.
“Strategically speaking, you have to be in New York and L.A.,” said Etro’s chief financial officer, Ippolito Etro. “It is a piece of the puzzle. And there’s synergies with wholesale as well. When you have a big store presence, the department stores see you with a different eye.”
And most Angelenos will, too. Few are familiar with the 36-year-old company started by Ippolito’s father, Geralamo “Gimmo” Etro, a purveyor of textiles sought after by Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan and Liz Claiborne. In 1983, the firm turned to finished products, pushing aside the textile business, which now accounts for only 10 percent of total projected sales in 2004 of 180 million euros, or $222.86 million at current exchange rates.
Etro remains a private, family-run business, with Ippolito’s brother, Kean, designing men’s wear, while sister Veronica designs women’s. Another brother, Jacopo Etro, runs the textile and home divisions.
Etro operates 35 directly owned and franchised stores worldwide and 60 in-store shops.
Italian architects Alberto Brugi and Elio Messi and U.S. architect Enrico Como designed a simple glass facade framed in white to mark the entrance of the Rodeo Drive store. Once inside, the fiesta begins. Save for the sandstone floors and Italian walnut walls, eye-popping color is everywhere. The store has been divided into two rooms: a men’s wear department at the front and women’s wear in back. There are rows of printed ties ($105), blue velvet blazers whose collars pop up to reveal undersides in either orange or green ($1,420), and three-quarter-length wool coats in white for men ($1,280).
In women’s accessories, there are multicolored jewel-encrusted orange belts ($280 to $630), chartreuse and yellow fur cuffs ($70 to $115) and patchwork handbags ($680 to $1,500). Farther back, the shoppers’ eye is drawn to more women’s must-haves, which this fall include an embellished (sequined, beaded and appliquéd) cream and yellow tulle scarf selling for $1,970, a fuchsia fur cape at $1,340 and a champagne-colored embellished velvet cape at $1,080. All prices are retail.
Large squares of carpet in both rooms push color even more, with orange lined with fuchsia for men and fuchsia lined with orange for women. Dressing rooms are cordoned off with heavy striped jacquard and velvet curtains from Etro’s home collection in more muted tones. Fixtures are restrained, with black lacquered walnut and glass display cases and one large, square gray leather settee in the women’s area.
A VIP and custom-made area for Hollywood luminaries has been set up in the basement, but the red carpet is not why Etro is here, said Ippolito. “We’re in the business to make money, not so much to be in the movie business,” he said. “We’re not in a rush to give free clothing left, front and center. It’s more about building a partnership with people who are not that famous yet, but who have good potential.”
And, of course, the locals are expected to chip in. Etro projects the store will ring up $3.5 million in sales its first year. A party has been scheduled for July 29. A guest list wasn’t immediately available.