BURBERRY TAKES NEW LOOK TO CALIFORNIA

Byline: Rose Apodaca Jones

BEVERLY HILLS — Tonight, Burberry opens its first West Coast flagship with the company’s new look, an 8,000-square-foot temple to the British house — with some California flair.
Sunglasses, bikinis and even skateboards mark this first-ever Los Angeles-area site. And this evening’s debut charity bash further indicates that Burberry is easing in among the locals, as Rita Wilson hosts hundreds of Hollywood VIPs, 90210 socialites and others at the new digs.
It’s totally cool. That’s exactly the kind of cachet Burberry chief executive officer Rose Marie Bravo and her team have been cultivating, and it has translated into unprecedented growth. The century-and-a-half-old house built on trenchcoats hasn’t lost sight of its roots. But the Burberry of old this is not.
“It’s a major statement,” Bravo said by phone from London headquarters in the days before her arrival here Wednesday. “We’ve never had a store in L.A. because we haven’t had the right range of product for the lifestyle and climate there. We do now. Despite all the sadness from recent events, it’s an exciting moment for us.”
In fact, she said, from Tuesday’s preview for celebrity stylists to Thursday’s trunk show with creative director Christopher Bailey, it’s “about getting back to life, focusing on the positive — really bonding,” said Bravo.
Bailey is on his first U.S. visit, since his appointment in May, to showcase the Burberry Prorsum 2002 spring collections.
This “Burberrywood,” as an illustration at the new store depicts, fittingly inhabits the former Planet Hollywood space at 9560 Wilshire Boulevard. The corner address is across the street from Barneys New York, a Burberry account, as are neighbors Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue.
While it’s Burberry’s third unit in California — and half the size of the New Bond Street flagship in London, the Bravo era template — it’s the first time the company is showcasing the full breadth of Burberry product here, including Burberry London and Burberry Prorsum.
Some items, like the skateboards and an expanded sunglasses area, are exclusive here.
Casual lifestyle items, such as T-shirts, denim and accessories, are expected to rank among the bestsellers, predicted Eugenia Ulasewicz, president of Burberry USA. Women’s and accessories account for about 65 percent of floor space. Also on site are the new Burberry Baby, Burberry London lingerie and Burberry Touch collections, as well as home and luggage.
The warmth and wit of the London flagship prevail: wool-brushed blond wood and limestone floors covered in Tibetan rugs handloomed with the Millennium check; street windows filled with irreverent party scenes with every chair, dish and fork covered Fornasetti-style with wrapping paper made of the ad campaign; and, positioned throughout, several life-size sheep covered with the bushiest white fur.
“It feels like Bond Street, observed Ulasewicz Tuesday morning, scanning the cavernous space colored with deep wine Venetian plaster walls. “But there are some features that are so important for L.A.”
The Beverly Hills door builds on the London template with some distinct differences. In lieu of oak, the frames of club chairs are of a futuristic clear red Lucite. Tables are of clear red glass, juxtaposed with other tables in chrome.
Two of the red chairs punctuate the “swing” room, a central area saturated in blinding white gloss, including the epoxy floor. Beresol lights provide a kind of skyline illumination. Product installations will change, with the opening spotlighting vintage Burberry pieces for sale.
Ottomans have been wrapped in candy-apple red or pearl-white patent leather, instead of Burberry beige.
Unlike the segregation of lines by room in London, this store’s overall open-floor plan — a first for Burberry — is designed with the cultural mood here.
“It’s important to be part of the community,” said Randall A. Ridless, the New York designer (who set the tone with the New Bond Street store) and worked in collaboration with architect Daniel J. Barteluce and the in-house team that includes Steve Gilbert, head of store design, and Diane Gatterdam, vice president of visuals worldwide.
Gatterdam commissioned local artists to create a graffiti plaid wall piece, whimsical wall tiles of a Burberry-clad dog or Buckingham Palace guard, and paintings of Burberry folk at landmarks like the Grauman’s Chinese Theater or the Tail of the Pup hot-dog stand.
Besides the alternative “front door” at the back of the store, Hollywood’s elite and its stylists will undoubtedly make use of the studio services, expanded from its New York counterpart.
In fact, it’s the entertainment industry that the company believes will help buffer the flagship from the bumps its stores in tourist-heavy places such as Hawaii and Las Vegas have hit since Sept. 11.
Bravo declined to reveal annual sales for the location, or the cost of building this flagship. An initial public offering is still in the works, parent company Great Universal Stores PLC told WWD this month.
This latest door marks Burberry’s 20th in the U.S. and its 60th worldwide. Burberry stores account for a third of the company’s overall sales, which totaled $603.5 million in the year ended March 31. Other stores in California are on Union Square in San Francisco and at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa.

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