What do Barack
Hopkins, and Vladimir
Putin have in common?
They all shop at House
of Bijan, the most
expensive menâ€™s fashion
designer in the world.
One of the streetâ€™s newer
developments, Two Rodeo, has a glittering Monte Carlo vibe.
The Beverly Wilshire hotel circa 1937.
Fred Hayman opened
Rodeoâ€™s first luxury
Beverly Hills, earning
him the title â€œGodfather
of Rodeo Drive.â€
Herrera at the opening of her new CH Carolina Herrera boutique.
Iconic horsebit motifs can be found at Hermès, but visitors to Rodeo Drive in 1924 would have found the equestrian equipment more literal: The street was a bridle path. In fact, horses hoofed it on this street until 1965, says Craig Donahue, the CEO of The Donahue Group, which has been the agency of record for Rodeo Drive since 1994. At mid-century, Rodeo Drive had a gas station, beauty parlors, and restaurants; it was a Main Street.
The luxury tide rolled in during 1961, when Fred Hayman’s Giorgio store opened, followed by Gucci, Hermès, Tiffany & Co., and Cartier. By the 1970s, hotels and retailers had formed the Rodeo Drive Committee, Inc., promoting the street with posters, maps, and more. The famous statue, anchoring the intersection at Rodeo Drive and Dayton Way, came to the neighborhood in 2004. Titled Torso, the 14-foot-tall work was carved from solid aluminum blocks by sculptor Robert Graham.
Today, “If you mention Rodeo Drive in China, Brazil, Europe, or India, they know immediately what you are talking about,” says Donahue. “For the luxury brands on Rodeo, their boutiques reinforce the glamour of their brands. For the local customer, this is where they can see the entire collection of each designer, versus small capsule collections at a department store.”
Rodeo is certainly a mix: Tourists in cargo shorts and flip-flops pose for photos with the world’s most finely attired mannequins. Is anyone actually buying anything in these gleaming stores, or is a presence here akin to an expensive global billboard? “If these stores didn’t do business, they wouldn’t be here,” says Donahue. “We’re having the best business in recent history. In two and a half blocks, we’re doing $450 million a year in sales.”
It can take years to score a coveted spot on Rodeo Drive, but there is some turnover. Hermès is building out a larger space two doors down from its current location. CH Carolina Herrera, Charlotte Olympia, and Céline all recently opened, and Burberry will reportedly bring in a digitally integrated store, with employees accessing product info and customer profiles via iPads in 2014. (Think mirrors that turn to screens.) A new event will celebrate the neighborhood’s concentration of fine timepiece brands; Rodeo Drive Festival of Watches premiers October 10 and features new product demonstrations, open houses, and watchmaker visits.
Nicolas Bijan Pakzad has fond memories of visiting his father, legendary menswear designer and perfumer Bijan, at the House of Bijan flagship, which opened in 1976. “If my father was with a client, no matter how important the man was, he would call me over and introduce me with so much love,” says Pakzad, who is the company’s associate merchandising director. Bijan passed away in 2011.
Inside the impeccably art-directed, appointment-only store, silver-framed photos show-off customers like Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, Sean Combs, Anthony Hopkins, and royalty from all over the world. The clientele browse galleries of one-of-a-kind items like an alligator coat with removable mink lining ($195,000). Closets open to reveal garments and accessories arranged by color scheme, and each closet in the Private Collection has a spectacular matching floral display—changed daily.
“Our clients come from all around the world; only a small percentage are from the Beverly Hills area,” Pakzad says. “Because of this, our collections are not seasonal; in summer we may have a beautiful cashmere topcoat on display in the boutique as well as a lightweight blouson jacket. Our customer base is so international, we must have something for our clients in Siberia and Mongolia, while at the same time have something for our clients in Doha and Lagos.”
Passersby often linger in front of the House of Bijan storefront, snapping photos of a Bijan Limited Edition Bugatti Veyron and Bijan Limited Edition Rolls-Royce Phantom in “Bijan Yellow.” “My father would always drive one of the cars from his collection and park it in front of the boutique. After his passing, we decided to continue the tradition,” Pakzad says. “I believe the fact that so many people still take photos with the car would make my father very happy.”