NEW YORK — Speakers outside the Lexington Avenue entrance of Bloomingdale's department store in Manhatten blasted Al Jolson singing "California, Here I Come."
In fact, California has come to Bloomingdale's. A cocktail party on Wednesday night launched the 17-store retail chain's 7-week promotion themed to the Golden State.
Though Bloomie's generally devotes its elaborate promotions to entire countries such as China or France, the store's chairman Marvin Traub says his latest tribute, "California--The New International Style," also fits the bill because "the state represents a particular life style and design influences that apply to everything--just like a country."
Traub and staff have spent the last year and a half making some 150 trips to the West Coast to fill the store with California merchandise from wines to wet suits to a special diet devised by Stanford University Medical School's Dr. Peter Wood.
The windows are currently filled with 6 tons of sand sculptures by Californian Todd Vander Pluym. Others feature California mission-motif beaded gowns by Bob Mackie from his "El Camino Real"-themed spring collection and sportswear designs by Leon Max.
The 3rd Avenue side of the building features a 132-foot-by-28-foot mural by California artist Arthur Mortimer depicting the 12 recreational regions of the state.
Inside, departments have been renamed "Wilshire Boulevard" (featuring designer labels such as Rosemary Brantley, James Tarantino and Nancy Johnson), "California Dreamin' " (Kaatayone Adeli for Laundry, Michelle Lamy, Leon Max, Christian de Castelnau) and "Zuma Beach" for swimwear.
California menswear is represented by young men's active labels such as Jimmy'Z, Ocean Pacific, Gotcha, Bugle Boy, Pacific Coast Highway and Guess?. Though there was reportedly much grumbling in the L.A. design community over who was on display and who wasn't, all in all California guests at the opening party seemed to feel the promotion was great for East/West fashion relations.
Said Mackie: "New Yorkers are very snobbish about L.A. But they go out there for more than three weeks and they've got a house and a dog and won't leave. It's nice to walk off the streets of New York and walk into a little bit of California."
Noted L.A. fashion show producer Yvette Crosby, who is the unofficial den mother of young L.A. designers: "What I've heard from the L.A. designers is that they think this is New York's version of L.A.--not necessarily the way we see ourselves. But the attention is being focused. The head is turned. And that's a start. The rest is up to us."