The phrase "retail apocalypse" has always been a bit of an exaggeration, but it feels like a huge one in Los Angeles, where it seems a new store is opening or a mall is being overhauled every other day. And while some retailers have closed their doors (see: Kitson and many of its Robertson neighbors), others are in growth mode, including Fred Segal, one of very few clothing stores — particularly on the West Coast — that can be referred to as iconic. On Tuesday, the 56-year-old LA concept shop opens a brand-new flagship a little over a mile Northwest of its original Melrose Avenue location; and on Monday, we got a sneak peek. The store's signature ivy facade, mansard awning and blue-and-red striping are all there, encapsulating 13,000 square feet of retail space, plus two dining spots and even a gym, spanning 22,000 square feet altogether.
New York-based Sandow Media acquired the worldwide rights to the Fred Segal name in 2012 and later brought on Evolution Media, which was founded by TPG Growth, Participant Media and Creative Artists Agency. Last year, the company hired a new President, John Frierson, who seems to be leading this expansion. "We're charged with growing the business; it was a family owned business for 50 years, and now it's time to grow," he explained Monday morning as the finishing touches were being put on the new location. "We wanted to open this store first to really show how the brand works today." The company also operates two stores in Japan and one at LAX airport. The Melrose location, which according to WWD is at the center of a lawsuit against the building's new owner, is no longer affiliated with Fred Segal despite still bearing the original signage.
It turns out that "how the brand works today," in what we know to be a challenging retail landscape, isn't all that different from how it's always worked. It's always featured rotating shop-in-shops and a restaurant — elements that traditional retailers are incorporating nowadays as consumers increasingly crave "experiences" — and simply "stocking clothes" isn't enough to get us to leave our homes and shop offline. "Fred Segal's always been unique; a lot of things that people aspire to now [in retail] — they want to be experiential, they want to have food, they want to have events — we always did that, so it sort of feels like the world came to us a little bit for that," explains Frierson. "It's not really in the retail mix in the same way that everybody [else] is."
The new Fred Segal is designed to be a place you can spend all day, weaving through its nine multi-brand boutiques, 11 shop-in-shops and four pop-ups, stopping for a snack or a drink at the adjacent cafe by Tartine and even staying for dinner at Tesse by Bill Chait, set to open in November. Further down the line, there will even be a gym concept.
But for those just there to shop, there are a few highlights: The CFDA solidifies its increased commitment to LA with a shop-in-shop featuring a rotating mix of American designers. The inaugural assortment includes A Peace Treaty, Adam Lippes, Anndra Neen, Ashley Pittman, Colette Malouf, Monogram, Nanette Lepore, Ovadia & Sons, St. Roche and Whit. The second outpost of New York's CAP Beauty features a chic range of natural beauty products. Collective, managed by Maris Collective, includes a more traditional assortment of contemporary womenswear, while Replika offers a selection of vintage. Then there are the permanent, monobrand shop-in-shops: Atelier & Repairs does chic, upcycled, one-of-a-kind denim, kimonos, button-downs and more. Lth Jkt offers affordable ($500-$800) leather jackets. LA-based Libertine erected a colorful, sequined, Instabait den to house its wild wares. And there's also a space for Suzanne Rae's cool, minimalist, consciously-made womenswear from Brooklyn. There's also the debut of in-house line Fred Segal Originals, a range of wardrobe staples for men and women, many of them made locally.
On the pop-up front, the store will be the first home for Levi's new Google Jacquard-powered smart jacket (Levi's also has a permanent shop-in-shop in the store), which allows the wearer to answer phone calls, listen to music, get directions and more with the swipe of a sleeve. New Era, Domino Media and Interscope Records also have their own ephemeral spaces.
In addition to being a place for discovery and experiences, the new Fred Segal is physically impossible to miss with neon signs glaring through its floor-to-ceiling windows. Anyone driving through West Hollywood will know about about Fred Segal's new location. Celebrity clientele, long associated with the retailer, could also help raise its profile among those outside the neighborhood. "Celebrities love to go to Fred Segal because of the selection but also because it feels like part of LA, so they feel at home here. I'm certain that will continue," says Frierson, who adds that retail in LA needs to feel like a destination. [LA is] spread out, so that's why we like this as a destination: You can get food; you can get coffee; you can take an exercise class; you can shop, have dinner. You can stay all day, so I think for people in LA, you have to kind of provide that."
While still unique, Fred Segal isn't devoid of competition in the LA retail space with modern-day malls like The Grove, The Americana and the still-being-refurbished Westfield Century City (to be anchored by a Nordstrom and an Eataly) also offering shoppers places to hang out all day. But Fred Segal probably has them beat when it comes to location and history, so we have pretty high hopes for its success. What will be interesting is to see how its additional locations fare. Next up for the company is a big push to open more stores, says Frierson.