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Customers Step Into Italy at This Sunset Plaza Shoe Boutique

July 08, 2001|MICHAEL QUINTANILLA | TIMES FASHION WRITER

Lorenzo Hadar is speaking into a domino-size cell phone, his lunch momentarily interrupted. "Where are you? In Italy? You guys are too much! It must be midnight there."

To break bread with Hadar, a hip businessman who owns two boutiques along Sunset Boulevard in trendy Sunset Plaza, is to be constantly interrupted. When the phone is not ringing with calls from friends such as Luis Barajas of Flaunt magazine or designer J. Lindeberg phoning from Milan, there are pals stopping to say hello during lunch.

Decked out in a long-sleeved silk T-shirt, plain front lightweight trousers and funky Comme des Garcons shoes sans socks, it's hard to imagine that the 48-year-old Hadar was once an Israeli soldier. "In Israel, you do the army," he says, adding that the best thing about serving in the military was meeting fellow soldier Sharona, who became his wife. Twenty-one years ago, with $500, the couple immigrated to the United States and started a family, which now includes four children ages 18, 15, 10 and 3.

Landing jobs as a handyman and in construction, Hadar saved about $30,000, with his wife, so he could open his first retail store on Sunset, La Mirage, in 1982, which has since been closed. Two years later, he opened H. Lorenzo, which sells men's and women's clothes.

In May came a shoe store simply named H., a stunning boutique that architecturally--with its stark white, minimalist decor, sleek water fountain display and slick merchandise presentation--looks more Milan than So Cal.

That was Hadar's intent when he collaborated with Italian architect Oliviero Baldini in creating the 1,100-square-foot store. To make the most of the narrow space, they designed two parallel shoe displays, about 50 feet long, that run almost the length of the boutique with a runway-like aisle in between.

The displays feature men's shoes on one side, women's on the other. The shoes, ranging in price from $150 to $1,500, are cleverly stored inside cloth bags specially made to hang inside sliding drawers beneath the displays. Cleverly disguised seats flip out from the side of the display cases. When a customer tries on a pair of shoes and walks down the "runway," he or she can see how the shoes look, thanks to a camera that projects the image onto a wall.

"I don't intend to stop Prada or Gucci. I just want to bring the most amazing shoes to Los Angeles," Hadar says about styles from Italian designers such as Angelo Figus, Rene Caovilla, Bruno Frisoni, Ernesto Esposito, and Alberto Guardiani. Now with H. in place, he is moving on to his next project: opening a yet-to-be-named 4,000-square-foot men's store at Sunset Plaza in September and, in December, relaunching H. Lorenzo to sell only women's clothes.

"I could never be a designer," Hadar says. "But I know fashion, which is about the trends, and style, which I believe must come from the stomach.

"I think what I am doing is offering customers a direction in fashion so they can develop their own personal style, which is really about art and soul."

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