Byline: Kristin Young

It was a quintessential Los Angeles moment for Catherine Malandrino, a European-turned-American designer who recently opened a store in Sunset Plaza. “Rod Stewart was my first customer,” gushed Malandrino, whose boutique deftly juxtaposes her couture-inspired collection against a Jetson-like retail atmosphere. “For me, that was really synonymous with L.A.”

Malandrino and her husband and business partner, Bernard Aidan, opened the 2,700-square-foot, three-level store at 8644 Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles on Nov. 17, alongside other upscale retail neighbors such as Tracey Ross, D&G, Kenzo, Traffic and H. Lorenzo.

It’s their second U.S. store, after opening a 2,500-square-foot location last year at 468 Broome Street in New York.

The Los Angeles sister shop did “amazing” business its first day, said Malandrino, who expects the unit to pull in between $1.5 million to $2.5 million its first year.

All the celebrity buzz it’s getting will certainly help.

The store’s opening cocktail party on Nov. 6 lured the likes of Rod Stewart’s daughter, Kimberly; Sharon Lawrence; Shiva Rose and husband, Dylan McDermott.

Malandrino said she is pleased with the attention from the glitterati set. The store caters to their needs with a private back entrance that leads to a salon housing one-of-a-kind pieces made for the Los Angeles store.

Of course, she conceded, “In Los Angeles, everybody is a VIP. It’s really a special city because even those people around celebrities are important.”

Malandrino has gained a considerable reputation from the wholesale business she and her husband created over two years ago.

Having first designed for Et Vous and Diane Von Furstenberg Studio, her own signature collection is now sold to 150 doors globally, notably Henri Bendel in New York. With the two namesake stores in the U.S., Malandrino believes her collection will have an even greater reach.

“It’s exactly what I’m looking for, you know,” she said, of her added exposure on the West Coast. “I’m looking for a new generation of customers — dressing people with a lot of personality.”

The collection is a melange of French feminine items with American-inspired edgy sportswear pieces.

“It’s really a part of my culture,” said the designer, noting her Parisian origins and New York life inspires her work. The collection’s price points range from a $100 scarf to a $2,000 cashmere sweater.

Malandrino’s soon-to-be-launched home scents, candles and body lotions will also be available at the new locale.

The space is colored with bold citrus yellow carpet, bright green walls and white frosted globe lamps dangling from the 35-foot-high ceilings. Christophe Pillet, an old friend of Malandrino, designed the structure to include a mezzanine and lower-level salon, all in a modern motif.

Malandrino believes the store’s atmosphere is almost as crucial to her customers as the merchandise. Vintage furniture scattered throughout the store is also for sale.

“For me, I want the store to feel like home,” Malandrino said. “I love the high ceilings. It brings a very positive energy to the place. People come into the store with a curiosity, with an open eye to what’s happening. Everything is a curiosity, from the collection to the display.”

There are more Catherine Malandrino stores in the planning stage. But the designer said she’s taking the roll-out step by step.

“My third step will be a European step,” she added.

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