LOS ANGELES — Vanessa Seward, the chic 34-year-old designer of Loris Azzaro, showed off the house’s renovated store in Paris three days before its debut on Monday — and she was doing the preview from a studio here on Melrose Avenue with her new creative consultant, Cameron Silver.
One image after another of the shop on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré flashed on the screen of an Apple laptop as Silver ran the slide show in the upstairs office of his vintage shop, Decades. “It’s all mirrors, black mirrors, smoked mirrors,’’ Seward said. “It’s very much like a bachelor pad of the Seventies.”
With the announcement of his new title this week, Silver, 34, instrumental in ushering Azzaro’s return to the red carpet when he provided Nicole Kidman with the white, fringed vintage dress for the New York premiere of “Moulin Rouge” in 2001, is reinforcing his role as the liaison between the Paris house and Hollywood A-listers. He also is assisting Seward in the development of the ready-to-wear collection and collaborates on U.S. publicity and retail strategies as the label has made its way back into stores such as Neiman Marcus, Jeffrey’s and Barneys New York.
“Azzaro has always been about spectacular eveningwear, and Los Angeles has always been about that, too,” Seward said in an interview during her first visit to Los Angeles. “Cameron is always in the middle of that, always connected to the stars. We have the same vision of how we like a woman to dress.”
Silver has had strong opinions about Loris Azzaro since opening Decades in 1997. In addition to Kidman, he has helped dress Rachel Griffiths, Carolyn Murphy and Jada Pinkett-Smith in Azzaro’s slinky Seventies-era numbers he has acquired from private archives.
“This is an opportunity to help support Vanessa in building the collection, particularly in developing more of a red-carpet collection that has no commercial restrictions,’’ Silver said.
An upstairs salon at Decades will showcase several award-show and premiere-ready samples on silver mannequins like those in Azzaro’s Paris shop. Those who want to buy, however, will be directed to nearby Neiman Marcus, Beverly Hills.
Silver’s arrival comes as Seward leads the house that was founded in 1968 into a new era. Hired by Azzaro himself in November 2002, she is honoring his heritage with the updated reissues of bejeweled jersey classics such as those famously worn by Sophia Loren, Marisa Berenson and Raquel Welch.
Seward introduced spangled separates, cashmere sweaters and shell-covered clutches and costume jewelry that helped boost ready-to-wear sales 300 percent last season to a total of $1 million for the year. For summer 2005, she is launching a new category: swimwear. “I think it’s logical for Azzaro to do swimsuits, but ones with jewels that you would wrap a skirt around and go off to a fabulous pool party in,’’ she said. “It is perfect for L.A.”
Compagnie Financiere Frey, the French champagne and retail development group, purchased Azzaro in 2002. Parfums Azzaro, acquired by Clarins in 1995, now has annual sales of about $119 million.
Even with the additional categories, the goal is not to grow rtw too fast, Seward said. Although Silver’s mandate is to explore additional retail options, “there is no rush,’’ she said. “Azzaro is all about the selectivity in everything from the distribution to the product. For the moment, we’re not doing anything to show the logo. We want to be known as all-around luxury, so we’re being very selective.”
With Silver on board, the Azzaro brand may benefit from an association with select celebrities. He was the conduit between the house and actress Diane Lane and her stylist, Jessica Paster, when the Academy Award nominee decided on a white, key-hole Azzaro gown for this year’s show. Lane didn’t take home an Oscar, but she did end up at the top of best-dressed lists, creating buzz that was a boon to Seward when she presented her first solo collection the day after the awards show.
The repartee between Seward and Silver developed quickly. Seward’s week-long visit to Los Angeles, which ended Saturday night so she could return to see the opening of the Paris store on Monday, was only her second face-to-face meeting with her collaborator. Silver said they met “by accident” when he dropped by the Paris shop a week after Loris Azzaro’s death of cancer at age 70 last November.
“I was walking and walking Rue du Faubourg because I couldn’t get a taxi when I found myself in front of the store,” he said. “I thought, ‘Oh I should stop in and see what’s going on.’”
An Azzaro sales clerk called Seward from the second-floor studio to meet Silver. A month later, Seward sent over several red-carpet-worthy looks to Decades for the Golden Globes, reinforcing the stock for the Oscar race. In between both shows, Naomi Watts dressed in Azzaro for a pre-event of the British Academy of Film and Television Awards, and Kristin Davis appeared in an Empire-waisted jersey cocktail at the Director’s Guild Awards.
Paster, seated next to Silver at lunch, chose four looks for her client, actress Kate Beckinsale, to select for the Los Angeles premiere Monday night of “Van Helsing.” Beckinsale went for a floor-length white gown. “I love that Azzaro isn’t fussy, but it’s just really elegant, sexy,” Paster said.
Through the week, Silver accompanied Seward to parties such as last Tuesday night’s Greybull Press celebration of its latest book, “Hollywood Life: The Glamorous Homes of Vintage Hollywood,” where she met fans such as actresses Gina Gershon and Tracee Ellis Ross and stylist Arianne Phillips.
Seward brushed her hand over an early Seventies Donald Brooks black jersey jumpsuit. “I’ve found a lot of incredible inspiration here in L.A.,” she said.