You can't have a conversation about fashion or cafes these days without mentioning the Beverlys--Beverly Drive and Beverly Boulevard--and it's nearly impossible to keep them straight without a program.
Where's Todd Oldham's store going to be? Or the hip cafe Red and its new lounge, the Red Eye? (On Beverly Boulevard.)
What about the site of the future Bloomingdale's, the granddaddy of all retailers? (Beverly Drive.)
Beyond the name, and the fact that neither one is a tourist stop, the two sister streets have nothing in common.
Beverly Drive was the first north-south shopping street in Beverly Hills. A sizable amount of it was once owned by Will Rogers. It's a retailer's dream--easy parking, a popular place to stroll with babies and dogs, safe as a small-town main street. Although just one street east of Rodeo Drive, its rents (and its designer wattage) are two-thirds lower.
Beverly Drive's renaissance is decidedly mainstream, with new tenants such as the Limited, Victoria's Secret and Banana Republic. The Gap and Williams-Sonoma, currently on the street, plan on opening new, doubled versions of themselves here next year.
The tidal wave of chain stores is crowding the remaining mom-and-pops, including the children's store Pixie Town, and such colorful places as Cristophe and Nate-N-Al's, giving the street the feeling of a deconstructed mall. While the populist, homogenized direction--an antidote to Beverly Hill's famous excesses--may bother elitists, others like the mix.
"This street represents the residents of Beverly Hills more so than any other retail area of Beverly Hills. They're stores for real people," says Ron Herman, owner of Fred Segal Melrose and Ron Herman in Brentwood Gardens; he's eyeing a property on the Drive for another Ron Herman store.
"Tourists are great," Cristophe says, "but I want the residents, and this location works in my favor. I want a neighborhood salon where everybody knows each other." His elite hair salon is in the middle of all the heavy foot traffic, near the future expanded Gap. "How many times do you go to Armani a month? Maybe once?" he says. "You probably go to the Gap several times."
The 800-pound gorilla of retailers, Bloomingdale's, can change the whole tilt of the Drive if it goes through with plans to open its West Coast flagship here in spring 1998. At the moment, nothing is signed on the dotted line. City fathers, store honchos and neighborhood groups are still hashing out zoning, environmental studies and real estate deals.
"It will be like nothing else you've ever seen in Los Angeles, in California or the rest of the country," says Bloomingdale's Chairman Michael Gould, a former area resident, of the three-story, parking-included Bloomie's proposal slated for 10 lots in the middle of the 200 block. "It will be open and contemporary, yet fit in with the community."
Across the street, Guess founder George Marciano owns the entire block of properties--including two banks and the old Tatou--bound by Beverly, Wilshire Boulevard, Dayton Way and the alley behind 2 Rodeo. Marciano is drawing up exterior remodeling plans and mulling potential tenants, one of which could be his own Yes, observers believe. His idea of making the corner Bank of America Building into a new wholesale fashion mart is on hold, but not ruled out, his representative says.
Meanwhile, over on Beverly Boulevard, the mood is as different as alternative music is from Top 40. The Boulevard runs east-west between the Echo Park area and Beverly Hills, with its most interesting action between Fairfax and La Brea avenues in Los Angeles. The Boulevard has a renegade feeling, as if those who are here are forging frontiers in location and design. Shops have Deco and Moderne facades and inside feel like little galleries.
"Frugal, understated artsy-ness," is the way Product's designer Elaine Kim describes the clothes and the SoHo-like stores. "Unless you're a modern, forward-thinking person, you don't get it."
Even hair is high fashion. "We don't do a housewife look here," says Reny Salamon, co-owner of the hip Estilo hair salon. "We can't have our clients walking around with the same haircut for a year."
The designers creating the cutting-edge clothes and young couture on the Boulevard came from around the globe. Australian Richard Tyler, Thai designer Mark Wong Nark at Tom Mark, Englishman Gregory Parkinson and Italian Elisabetta Rogiani all have modern, original clothes hung like artwork in their sparsely decorated ateliers. Native Californian Henry Duarte, once on the Boulevard, moved his custom menswear design studio around the corner to Martel Avenue.
These are clothes to wear to the Oscars, to a great party, to a new club. Shoppers don't stroll, but make a beeline for their favorite designer.