A MATCH MADE ON BEVERLY
TV STAR MEETS RETAILER, OPENS MULTILABEL STORE WITH STYLE AND PARKING.
Byline: Nina Farrell
Most actors know a good role when they see one. That’s why, when daytime television star Lauralee Bell was presented with the opportunity to pair up with retail guru Shauna Stein, she simply couldn’t say no.
Last November, the two opened up a 4,000-square-foot, multi-designer women’s clothing store, aptly named On Beverly Blvd. Initially, Stein teamed up with Bell as head buyer and merchandiser, but later they decided to form a partnership.
“To have a partnership like this is a dream,” Stein said. “Lauralee loves clothes like I do.”
Besides a diverse mix of apparel, accessories, eyewear and footwear, On Beverly Blvd. actually has parking, which, in this town, is as scarce as an empathetic meter maid. Located in a two-story building across from the Beverly Center, the store is a warm, casual space with plenty of light. Bleached wood and poured concrete floors are accented by sisal rugs, stark white walls, dark iron railings and modern, yet comfortable furniture.
On Beverly Blvd. is on the upper floor and showcases such designers as Jean Paul Gaultier, Blumarine, D&G, Narciso Rodriguez, Rene Lezard, Alberta Ferretti, Roberto Cavalli, Alexander McQueen and newcomer Jamin Lee for Translatio — a high tech line of minimalistic pieces with a great mix of fabric and color.
Such an eclectic group of labels seems to work well in the understated environment, allowing the designs to stand out with bright colors and sexy shapes.
An element of sophistication and maturity shines in every piece of clothing, handbag and display case, while a flirtatious ambience makes the experience fun and exciting. After all, merchandising is an art, like everything else, and Bell is learning from one of the best.
Stein, who spent the first years of her career in Italy, has made a career of putting together edgy and diverse fashion.
In 1976, she went to work as a general buyer for Ron Ross until she opened her own store in the Beverly Center in 1987, where she introduced such labels as Romeo Gigli, Dolce & Gabbana, John Galliano, Helmut Lang and Moschino to the spandex-wearing public.
Soon, the success of Shauna Stein caught the eye of men’s wear giant Bernini, who purchased the company in 1995 and left Stein at the helm.
Bernini also opened a second Shauna Stein store, with 2,800 square feet, in Las Vegas in 1997 in Caesars Palace. The expansion did not fare well, however, and Stein found herself in a difficult position.
“When it comes to other markets, you have to know what you’re getting into,” she said.
During that time, Stein also became head buyer for a Bernini-owned Moschino store on Rodeo, as well as tending to the needs of her two stores. But the relationship with Bernini began to unravel.
“We simply weren’t on the same page,” Stein reported. “Bernini had a very specific approach to retail that was centered around men’s wear, which is an entirely different business with another profit structure. Women make decisions differently from men, and selling to them requires another mentality altogether.”
Last year, Stein left her stores, which still bear her name, and joined forces with Bell, who had been a customer and friend for years.
Bell, who was on hiatus from her 15-year role as Christine Blair Williams on CBS’s “The Young and the Restless,” quickly set things in motion.
“This was an amazing opportunity to get out of what had become a very volume-driven, mall business,” Stein said. “The location was perfect, and I was thrilled to be returning to a more individual, hands-on approach to retail.”
Today, in what has become one of the city’s most interesting and well-rounded partnerships at retail, On Beverly Blvd. is thriving with educated salespeople, a wide customer base and some of the hottest labels.
While the women share similar philosophies on trends and customer service, their individual experiences have made them a smart pair for a store that caters to everyone from professional stylists to the average clotheshorse.
“This town is known for its award shows, and the public is always going to be fascinated with what celebrities are wearing,” Bell said. “But in our store, it’s not a matter of simply getting attention from the press or imitating a certain look. It’s about feeling great, and that goes for any customer.”
“Any customer” can mean the woman who comes in looking for a wardrobe full of pink or the once-a-season shopper who only purchases that must-have Blumarine sweater. But whether it’s a Translatio plaid and blue organza wrap or a tailored metal tulle skirt by sportswear designer Marcel Marongiu, there is usually something for everyone.
“There is such a diverse element in fashion right now,” Stein said. “Even some of the most conservative designers are experimenting with new shapes and colors, and our bestsellers are a reflection of that.”
Roberto Cavalli’s over-the-top, rock ‘n’ roll looks are doing extremely well for the store, as are the soft shapes of Blumarine and the clean, edgy lines of Rene Lezard.
In accessories, leather and silver jewelry by Iosselliani and handbags by Dolce & Gabbana, Jamin Puech and Strenesse are also very popular. While these designers are in sharp contrast to one another, they are no doubt indicative of the On Beverly Blvd. philosophy. What works for Bell and Stein is pulling together creative looks from a number of resources and offering picky clients a personalized, individualistic sense of style.
This, Stein admits, comes from educating the salespeople to help their clientele make the right decisions. The general public has a hard time relating to high-concept fashion, she added, but they’re still interested in it.
By showing customers what an educated point of view has edited from the collections and where they can fit into all that, Stein and Bell have forged intimate relationships with many of their customers, almost acting as personal stylists.
“Fashion is in an extraordinarily tumultuous state right now,” Stein observed. “The information era, the Internet and a new century have sped up the treadmill, so to speak. But when all the dust settles, those old values of sincere service and personal attention are what count.”
After her experience in Las Vegas, Stein has certainly learned to concentrate on the needs of a particular market. This fall’s collections, for example, are all about luxurious outerwear, she said, but that won’t necessarily work for Los Angeles.
“Last fall, it was 90 degrees until the end of November,” Stein added. “People here have always been more interested in sportswear and lighter pieces, so we have to interpret what’s going on globally and translate that for the lifestyle.”
This fall, Bell and Stein are looking at designs that are feminine and polished, in hues like chocolate, rust and olive. Lavender and purple will also grace the floor, “because they go great with brown,” Stein noted.
Estimated sales for this year are $3 million. The partners plan to take over the ground floor of their building, which currently houses a men’s wear retailer.
Further growth will depend on how On Beverly Blvd. evolves and progresses in the fashion community.