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Fashion 88 : He Has a Top-Selling Perfume and Chic Boutiques, but Does He Really Know Anything About Taste?

July 08, 1988|JEANNINE STEIN | Times Staff Writer

A few words from Bijan Pakzad, the new self-appointed arbiter of taste:

- New York tap water is good taste; Perrier is bad taste.

- Leather floors are good taste; wall-to-wall carpeting is bad taste.

- Wearing the same cologne as your driver is extreme bad taste.

- Bad taste is asking someone not to smoke. Good taste? Not smoking.

- Nix on going topless; a one-piece is better.

- And visible panty lines? Ugly, ugly, ugly.

He's at it again. Bijan--the menswear designer and retailer who brought you bulletproof clothes, chinchilla bedspreads, $3,000 suits and signed and gold-inlaid designer pistols--now is telling the world what he thinks, whether the world wants to know or not.

He is spreading his message through his latest magazine advertising campaigns for his women's perfume, now one of the hottest-selling fragrances around. One two-page spread lists his "10s": "10 most favorite things in my life, 10 favorite movies or plays of mine." The other ad details, "The bad, the good and the ugly," taste-wise.

Explains His Philosophy

But why should the world care what Bijan thinks?

"I took advantage of my thoughts to do something, that you stop to read it," he explains. "I tell you who I am, and I am right to say that. It is not a strange philosophy. It is a true philosophy!

"I do believe that a man in a toupee is bad taste. Or for a man to wear a contact lens to look prettier? That's . . . that's . . . a bad attitude!" he sputters.

And why should the world trust Bijan's taste?

"Because Bijan is dressing 20,000 people in the world, and those 20,000 people are big people in the world," he says, emphatically. "Because Bijan introduces quality. And if you believe it is quality, you are not fair not to compliment the guy who created that quality."

Most people will have to trust the judgment of the select customers who have bought Bijan clothes, because unless they have a Brink's truck filled with money, it's unlikely they will ever set foot in his stores. Entry to the Bijan shops on Rodeo Drive and on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan is by appointment only. The door is locked.

That is an elitism that the 44-year-old Iranian-born Bijan--who has gone by a lone trade name since long before Madonna was in crucifixes--has cultivated in his years in business.

"It's a very strange way, to show by appointment," he admits. "Don't think you can walk in and touch everything and ruin everything and say, 'Bye-bye.' Because that's very American, and I respect that. But not for this type of clothing, those suits."

Bijan, however, is willing now to break down the wall. A little.

Tiny Boutique

His ads are one way he is reaching out to the masses, who are reaching back. Bijan has received 1,000 response letters, 950 of them positive, he says, adding: "Sometimes you have to open your heart and mind to the people outside and say what you want! I think a woman who uses my perfume every morning, or a man (who uses) my after-shave, mentally should know who it is who is allowing them this morning to use this cologne."

Bijan, whose accented speech reveals that he has not perfected the American idiom, also has sidled up to more common customers through the tiny perfume boutique that takes up a corner of his Rodeo Drive store.

The door is open. But the boutique is separated from his clothing store by a glass wall lined with bottles of perfume that sell for $300 an ounce. "My (clothing) prices," he concedes, "make a glass wall between me and those people outside, and I find out many of them have lots of taste but not that type of money!" He flashes his toothy grin, which borders on a grimace and makes him look as if a doctor had just given him a shot but he kind of liked it. He lights up a Dunhill in his windowless office on the second floor of his Beverly Hills store and exhales, squinting through a cloud of smoke.

His clients, he says, are the richest and most powerful men in the world. Behind him are framed pictures of the Shah of Iran, President Reagan and Prince Phillip. He doesn't like to name names of his customers, but occasionally teases with a king here and a president there.

In his stores, Bijan himself is king. He asks for coffee--"beige"--from a pleasant, white-jacketed young man, Michael, who brings the drink on a silver tray decorated with a single lily.

He calls for his secretary to bring him one of his infamous guns, kept in a mink pouch inside a Lucite box. Bijan hands over the heavy black pistol with the gold barrel and explains it is "not a killer item, as you would think," but something for collectors. A gift a king would give to a king.

Such royal affluence has been part of Bijan's life since the beginning. He is the eldest of five children of well-to-do parents in Iran, where his father was an industrialist.

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