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Designer Alberta Ferretti, an A-list favorite, makes her U.S. flagship red-carpet adjacent.

September 28, 2008|Max Padilla | Special to The Times

MILANESE designer Alberta Ferretti chose image-obsessed Los Angeles to open her first U.S. flagship boutique Sept. 20, bypassing Manhattan to put her elegant catwalk looks within easy reach of actresses and the stylists who dress them.

That makes her red-carpet adjacent for a covetable collection of A-list fans, including Tilda Swinton, Anne Hathaway and Angelina Jolie, who have donned her feminine creations for film premieres. And the free-standing store significantly ups the glam quotient of a formerly sleepy stretch of Melrose Avenue near the Pacific Design Center, joining nearby Balenciaga, which opened its doors last spring.

Starlets can try on a purple silk-chiffon cocktail dress ($3,210) in a dressing room with floor-to-ceiling three-paneled mirrors that provide a 360-degree view. In an adjoining room, harried stylists can arrange looks with magnetic hangers on a white-lacquered magnetized steel wall, refrigerator-poetry-style.

Ferretti said she finds Los Angeles an ideal testing ground for the luxury market "for a multitude of reasons: the mood of my current collections, my success on the red carpet, the new concept of my boutique design and the location ideal to reveal this contemporary inspiration," she said in an e-mail from Milan, Italy, where she was preparing a runway show for the city's fashion week.

She chose Melrose, she added, because that's where her customer prefers to open her pocketbook. The street "may lack the foot traffic of Robertson or Rodeo Drive, but what it has become is a shopping destination for the contemporary and cosmopolitan woman that inspires my collections," she said.

The store will stock her signature collection plus the less-expensive Philosophy di Alberta Ferretti and Alberta Ferretti Girl lines, along with bags, eyewear and shoes.

London-based architectural firm Sybarite, helmed by Torquil McIntosh and Simon Mitchell, designed the 4,500-square-foot space to be slightly futuristic, with recessed ceiling lighting and transparent Perspex acrylic dividers to break up the column-free space. It's an airy setting for Ferretti's floaty designs, such as an emerald jeweled-sleeve silk cocktail dress ($1,695) or crystal-heeled black satin shoes ($895). The architects "have created an atmosphere that is sensual and ethereal, like my designs," Ferretti said.

The store's interior purposefully lacks hard edges. Dress hangers displaying the Philosophy collection are tucked under large elliptical rails. Circular gray settees sit above circular patches of carpet framed by terrazzo tiles. "We love curves," said Michelle Stein-Borgna, president of Aeffe USA, Ferretti's parent company.

An oxidized steel band with the name Alberta Ferretti backlit in milk-white glass wraps the building's original brick and stucco exterior for an updated look.

Is Ferretti, who has appeared as a guest judge on "Project Runway," thinking of making more of a foray into Hollywood as a personality?

"If the right vehicle would come around, she would be interested in collaborating with the right director," Stein-Borgna said. "It's a natural progression now that she has a home base in Los Angeles."


8626 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood. (310) 652-9000. 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday; noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.

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