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By Design | FASHION / SENSE OF STYLE

A Legend's Move Gives an Upstart a Space

August 08, 1996|MIMI AVINS | TIMES FASHION EDITOR

Rodeo Drive just won't be the same anymore. Carroll & Co., the landmark Beverly Hills men's clothier, has vacated the street it has seen transformed from a charming neighborhood strolling and shopping spot to an international tourist destination to make way for a Tommy Hilfiger store scheduled to open in fall 1997. Until the wrecking ball swung a few days ago, the family-owned store at the corner of little Santa Monica Boulevard was the oldest business on Rodeo Drive.

Richard Carroll was a press agent at Warner Bros. who drove downtown to Brooks Brothers to buy a suit for his brother's wedding in 1945, because the Westside had no place where a gentleman could buy clothes. So when the studio downsized, he opened a small store on Beverly Drive. His contemporaries--writers, producers, directors and actors such as Cary Grant, Clark Gable, Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire--frequented the shop, which moved to the Rodeo Drive location in 1953.

John Carroll, who began working with his father in 1986, said, "In the old days, the stars would come in and buy their clothes, like everybody else. Today, the big designers love to give clothes away to high-profile actors. We're not in a position to do that."

Nevertheless, Hollywood still depends on the store, which keeps files on regular customers. Actors' sizes, measurements and clothing preferences are recorded, and the shop's studio division works with costume designers assembling wardrobes for films and television shows.

"Twenty years ago, Rodeo Drive was a very different street," Carroll said. "Today, I'd guess 80% of the traffic is tourists. So much of our business is local that we really didn't benefit from that, so for what we would have paid in rent for a year, we bought a building two blocks east on Canon Drive." The new store opens Saturday.

When Carroll & Co. agreed to give up the lease, the name of the new kid on the block was never mentioned. "If our landlord knew who was coming in, he didn't let on to us," Carroll said.

*

Don't Hate Me Because I'm Beautiful: Elaine Irwin, the blond model and wife of the artist formerly known as John Cougar Mellencamp, flew in from her home in Indiana in her capacity as spokes-model for Ocean Dream, the new fragrance by Giorgio, Beverly Hills. Wearing a slinky cut-velvet gown by L.A. designer Pamela Barish, Irwin mingled at the reception Giorgio hosted last week for the benefit of the American Oceans Campaign. Star makeup artist Carol Shaw, who recently created her own cosmetics line, Lorac, turned Irwin from Midwestern farm girl into a vision of Venus on the half shell. "What would you do with a woman that beautiful?" one male guest asked a friend. "I don't know. Just look at her, I guess," the awe-struck man replied.

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Don't Hate Me Either: Scottish model Stella Tennant is so tall and long-limbed, she has trouble buying clothes. Poor girl. Luckily, cashmere sweaters by Lucien Pellat-Finet, which have become an expensive habit among models who love clothes and the women who ape them, can be customized. Pellat-Finet asks the seamstresses who make his Scottish cashmeres into understated little pullovers and color-tipped cardigans to sew on a few extra inches to cover Stella's wrists. Barneys carries the sweaters in California.

* Sense of Style appears on Thursdays in Life & Style.

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