LOS ANGELES — Tracey Ross — whose signature boutique at Sunset Plaza here is as much a magnet for local celebrity clotheshorses, such as Selma Blair and Eve, as it is the international shopping set — is taking the first steps to turning her name into a lifestyle brand.
“This is about extending my style, which you see in my choices for my store, into products and categories that could sell around the world,” Ross said.
She and her brother, Michael Ross, 41, are launching their plans with a line of sharply designed footwear, retailing for $500 to $1,200 a pair. The first four styles tested well in the store. Julianne Moore walked out in an ankle-strap pair of natural python, Eve chose the style dyed in lavender, Blair grabbed a pair of Forties-flavored slingbacks in pale pink leather and Daryl Hannah took a pair of multistrapped heels in python to wear to the Cannes Film Festival next week, Ross said.
Scoop has placed an order for fall for its eight stores in New York, Connecticut and Florida, and its e-commerce site, said co-owner Stephanie Greenfield. Jeffrey has ordered the distressed leather boot that retails for $795.
Friends who are owners of three other stores, Forty Five Ten in Dallas, Fred Segal on Melrose Avenue here and Madison in Santa Monica, Calif., also requested the line in the last month, Ross said.
“Tracey has more personal style in her pinky than most people collect in their entire life,” said Brian Bolke, co-owner of the Dallas store, who’s known Ross for years from seeing the collections in Paris. Three styles arrived in the store last week; four pairs of the kelly green, Forties-style heel, each priced at $595, sold last weekend.
Ross, 42, said she is meeting with retailers in New York and London in the next two weeks, presenting a more fully realized fall collection, complete with boots. She and her brother estimate first-year retail sales of $500,000.
“Does the world need another shoe line?” asked Ross, a lithe, perennially bronzed blonde. “As much as you need another piece of jewelry or another watch. In other words, absolutely. I get bored, so why not always want something else?”
That something else is to grow beyond footwear as early as next year, she said. Handbags, belts and related leather accessories are the natural next move, and may be produced, like the shoes, at factories outside Florence.
Cosmetics and fragrance also top the list of products she wants to develop. After visiting China and Japan last month, she indicated a sportswear line might be a couple of seasons away.
“I’m obsessed with the markets in Tokyo and Shanghai,’’ Ross said. “They’ve totally inspired me. My God, the money….The girls all live in their parents’ houses until they get married. There’s so much disposable income.’’
Ross has played a singular role on the West Coast. For 14 years, she has presided as host of a retail get-together at her boutique. The store is like a community center for the bold-faced local names, their wives and girlfriends, and is a first stop for many designers looking for a break.
She is among the first U.S. retailers to introduce consumers to Zac Posen, Juicy Couture and DSquared. When Stella McCartney joined Chloé in 1999, the house came to her to help connect the brand with tastemakers through her store. Ross has since become friends with McCartney, stocking her signature line and lending her time and little black book to bring customers to McCartney’s store two miles away.
Ross’ strength is her mix of chic and casual that has helped define the quintessential L.A. style. Besides McCartney and Chloé, she also carries True Religion, Andrew Gn, Blur and Ya-Ya, as well as Terry Biviano shoes, books, knick-knacks and jewelry and accessories, both vintage and locally created.
She spent three years as an undergraduate at the University of California at Los Angeles, though the Long Beach, Calif., native honed her calling through retail. She started at 16 as a sales clerk at Bullock’s, and during the next 13 years moved to well-known boutiques such as the now-defunct Melrose Avenue store Melon’s, Fred Segal and Diane Merrick in West Hollywood.
At all three, Ross learned about buying for a moneyed, trendy clientele. And she picked up something about the right location.
She opened her store in 1990 on Robertson Boulevard, now a coveted shopping neighborhood in West Los Angeles. By 1996, rising rents sent her looking for another home, and she relocated to nearby Sunset Plaza on Sunset Boulevard. At the time, Hollywood had moved on from this promenade of local designer ateliers, cafes and the legendary Le Dome restaurant. But Ross helped bring them back. The area is hot again.
Her brother, Michael, is a music producer and owner of the recording label Delicious Vinyl. Though clients had told her for years to start her own line, Tracey said it took Michael to push her into wholesale.
After a stop in London this week, she’s off to the South of France to see her other brother, Ricky, at Cannes for an all-in-the-family movie premiere. Ricky’s wife, Xan Cassavetes, daughter of the late director and actor John Cassavetes and actress Gena Rowlands, directed the documentary “Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession,” based on one of the first paid cable channels in the U.S. Among big sister’s duties: making sure Ricky and Xan dress the part for opening night.
The new venture is her preoccupation, especially as she travels and collects inspiration.
Having her own product in the Sunset Plaza shop “just helps everyone,” she said. “I’m doing my own thing, what I like and what I think is missing. Hey, I’ve been giving out my ideas for so long, it’s time to do it for myself.”