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Celebrity Shop Sues Over Lack of Publicity

September 12, 2006|Andrew Blankstein | Times Staff Writer

In the celebrity fashion world, the adage goes, it's not what you're wearing but who you are wearing.

Now one of Hollywood's most celebrity-soaked boutiques is suing one of the town's top celebrity chroniclers, accusing it of the ultimate snub.

The owner of Kitson, the Robertson Boulevard clothing store favored by young celebs such as Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton and Denise Richards, says that Us Weekly magazine is intentionally omitting any mention of the store in its issues because of a nasty legal feud.

Kitson founder Fraser Ross claims the magazine reneged on a settlement in which it agreed not to disrupt the business or disparage the reputation of the store.

The lawsuit alleges the magazine now refuses to name or show the Kitson brand in credits, captions or celebrity photographs. As an example, the suit cited the magazine's cropping of a picture in such a way that its blue shopping bags, "generally known to readers, did not display the name Kitson on it."

Not long ago, Us Weekly gushed that Kitson was "L.A.'s hippest hot spot."

But now, according to the lawsuit, the magazine refuses to mention the store. Evangeline Lilly, one of the stars of the ABC show "Lost," was pictured in the magazine attending a private Kitson launch party. But the suit says Kitson was never mentioned.

The suit says the same was true for California First Lady Maria Shriver and her daughter Katherine, who were pictured leaving Kitson even though the store was left out of the credit. In the same August issue, the suit says, Nicole Kidman's photograph stated she was leaving rival retailer Fred Segal.

Representatives of Us Weekly didn't respond to several requests for comment on the suit.

The allegations come as the FBI continues an investigation into whether a paparazzi agency partly owned by Ross hacked into Us Weekly's computer system to figure out what celebrity stories the magazine was working on.

Federal agents in May searched the offices of Sunset Photo as well as the home of its owner, Jill Ishkanian, a former Us Weekly editor. An attorney for Sunset Photo has denied that Ishkanian did anything wrong and said she is fully cooperating with authorities. The attorney also said Ross was only an investor in Sunset and had no role in its actual operations.

That's not the only conflict between Kitson and Us Weekly. In February, Ross sued the magazine's parent company, alleging that top Us Weekly editor Ken Baker threw a private charity party at Kitson but never paid for it. That suit was settled. Baker did not return calls seeking comment.

Kitson is situated along a strip of Robertson Boulevard that is frequented by celebrities and home to eateries such as the Ivy, as well as upscale boutiques such as Lisa Kline and Maxfield Bleu.

But Kitson garners the most paparazzi exposure -- and even became a tourist draw in part because of intense publicity in Us Weekly and other publications. When Brad Pitt split from Jennifer Aniston and started dating Angelina Jolie, Ross created shirts that read "Team Aniston" and "Team Jolie."

How much does Kitson need Us Weekly?

In the lawsuit, Ross says the lack of publicity from Us is costing the store $10,000 per week.

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andrew.blankstein@ latimes.com

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