1808 Thayer Avenue, Third Floor
Los Angeles, California 90025-4906
Telephone: (310) 432-0560
Toll Free: (877) 411-5893
Web site: https://www.fredsegal.com
Fred Segal Inc., headquartered in Los Angeles, operates boutique fashion department stores and shopping complexes in the United States and Japan. An iconic California retail brand, Fred Segal retains the name of its retired founder, although it is now owned by Sandow Media LLC, a New York firm with a portfolio of lifestyle- and fashion-focused media and consumer brands. Fred Segal stores typically deploy a shop-in-shop design concept, allowing shoppers to browse through small boutiques devoted to major fashion brands. The company also sells fashion and accessories under its own labels.
Born in 1933 at the height of the Great Depression, Fred Segal was taken to California by his parents the following year. As the family members scrambled to find work, Segal began shining shoes as soon as he could pick up a brush. He attended the University of California, Los Angeles, in the early 1950s, obtaining a job as sales manager for the H.I.S. Sportswear company after graduation. Here, he learned the ropes of the apparel industry, although his own tastes ran to high-end fashion. Over time, he conceived a plan for marketing blue jeans, then considered the ultimate in low-end casual wear, as a high-fashion item with a correspondingly high price point. His superiors, however, were not interested in such an experiment. After nearly a decade at H.I.S., he decided to strike out on his own.
Working with apparel designers, Segal developed a distinctive low-rise, “hip hugger” blue jean design using indigo denim. He then opened a small storefront in 1961 in West Hollywood under his own name. The 350-square-foot space featured mostly blue jeans, although it also stocked a carefully curated selection of designer shirts and pants. Segal priced the jeans at $19.95 a pair at a time when standard blue jeans were available from many retailers for as low as $2.50. The combination of styling, quality denim, and haute couture cachet, however, soon began attracting deep-pocketed patrons from Southern California's entertainment industry. The store proved almost immediately profitable.
It was at this point that Segal turned his attention to developing a sort of high-fashion superstore. He had already experimented with the concept on a smaller scale a few years earlier, opening the Malibu Country Mart in a renovated Malibu motel. He now purchased a former ice skating rink in Santa Monica and transformed it into a 35,000-square-foot complex that featured 17 boutiques, 4 restaurants, and even a playground for his customers' children. A DJ played records from a glass booth all day long. Although most of the shops were branded with Segal's name, he had actually sold the boutiques to associates and family members, who operated them as tenants of the complex. Named simply “Fred Segal,” the complex opened its doors in late 1985 and did about $10 million in sales for its first year.
In addition to his designer jeans and general acumen as a fashion entrepreneur, Segal also became known for his devotion to philanthropic causes, specifically the promotion of world peace and the protection of the environment. He rarely hesitated to use his businesses as a platform to advocate for these issues, handing out free literature on nuclear disarmament at a booth in the Santa Monica complex, for example. In 1990, with the complex generating $15 million per year in sales and the Melrose shop, which by now hosted its own contingent of in-house boutiques, bringing in $17 million, Segal and some partners spent nearly $1 million to expand the Santa Monica facility with another 15,000-square-foot retail space located just across the street. The facility was touted as the world's first “environmental, nontoxic department store” and was built with recycled wood and nontoxic paints and building materials. Separate from his retail operations, Segal was also building a 240-acre “peace park” in the nearby mountains.
By the end of the 1990s Segal's retail business was grossing around $50 million a year. Now in his mid 60s, Segal himself had been easing toward retirement, selling more of his properties to friends and relatives, although he sometimes retained a minority interest and usually charged a licensing fee for the use of his name on the stores' marquees. His nephew, Ron Herman, a fashion maven in his own right, now operated the Melrose store under the name Ron Herman Fred Segal. The Santa Monica facility was owned by a consortium of Segal's children and family members, whereas its constituent boutiques belonged to more family members and associates. All told, the various businesses associated with the Fred Segal brand were owned by about 40 individuals.
With so many separate entrepreneurs operating under the Fred Segal brand, conflicts were bound to arise. In one example from the first decade of the 21st century, Segal clashed repeatedly with the owners of Fred Segal Beauty, a salon located in the Santa Monica complex. The proprietors alleged in various legal filings that Segal had encouraged them to begin developing plans for a second salon to be installed in the Melrose location and also to begin laying plans for a line of Fred Segal beauty products. After several years of stalling, they contended, Segal had withdrawn support for both projects, costing them millions. As the case moved through the courts, Fred Segal Beauty shut its doors in 2008.
In addition to this and other legal headaches, the company faced economic uncertainties during the decade as recessions struck in 2001 and 2008. Although Fred Segal's largely affluent client base carried it through the first downturn, the second recession was much more pronounced and prolonged and cut deeply into the company's bottom line. Rising competition from online retailers such as Amazon also did not help matters. In 2010 the Santa Monica complex was renovated and reorganized to better reflect current customer tastes.
Fred Segal's son Michael, now the company's managing partner, explained to Lisa Lockwood for a May 3, 2012, article in WWD, “Over the past 50 years, we have turned down multiple offers, never willing to risk our brand integrity, but after meeting [Sandow's CEO] Adam Sandow and discovering his passion for innovation and vision for Fred Segal, the decision was clear. We are excited to watch his team grow our beloved brand to new heights.” In the same article, Michele Caniato, president of Culture + Commerce, detailed his firm's plans for the brand, “We are going to be very careful on how and where we spread the Fred Segal name…. We're going to look to Asia and the European market, as well as Miami, Las Vegas and New York.”
The new parent firm wasted little time making good on its promises for expansion. Whereas Fred Segal had done little online retailing in the past, work quickly began on a new, full-service sales website. Near the end of the year, Sandow announced that the company had successfully gained a foothold in Japan, inking a deal with Mitsubishi Corporation Fashion Co. Ltd. to produce Fred Segal–branded merchandise for the Japanese market. Furthermore, work had begun on a 10,000-square-foot Fred Segal shopping complex in Tokyo that would mirror the shop-in-shop arrangement of the two California facilities. About 20 percent of the merchandise sold in the complex would be branded with the Fred Segal label, while the rest would be carefully selected brands considered “fashion forward” in Japan. While announcing the Japanese expansion, CEO Sandow indicated that the company was mulling adding a complex in Miami, with China and South Korea as additional potential future markets.
Despite Sandow's aspirations to carry the Fred Segal brand across the United States and around the globe, the company's next two projects were set up closer to home. A smaller-scale Fred Segal facility was set up at the Los Angeles International Airport, while Sandow also signed a deal to open a 10,000-square-foot, seven-boutique store in the brand-new SLS Las Vegas Hotel & Casino in Nevada. In early 2014 Sandow brought in Evolution Media Partners, a private equity firm owned in part by the Creative Artists Agency LLC, as coinvestor and partner in the Fred Segal enterprise. At the same time, Paul Blum, former CEO of Kenneth Cole and Juicy Couture, was hired as Fred Segal Inc.'s new CEO.
Shortly after settling into his office, Blum announced that future plans for the Fred Segal brand centered around the development of 10,000- to 50,000square-foot “lifestyle centers” that combined the usual assortment of apparel and accessory boutiques with restaurants and gourmet food retailers, yoga studios, workout gyms, and other attractions. The Tokyo prototype opened its doors in the spring of 2015, while the company's e-commerce site finally began taking orders that August. Near the end of that month, however, the Las Vegas boutique ceased operations after a year in business, when it became apparent that casino high rollers were saving their money for the slot machines and gaming tables. Meanwhile, the original Fred Segal retail hubs were also being phased out. The Santa Monica center had been sold late in 2012 and the new owners decided to tear it down and build an apartment complex. In early 2016 a Canadian company, CormackHill LP, acquired the Melrose center but not its branding license, spurring a court battle with Sandow when CormackHill left the prominent “Fred Segal” sign in place on the building.
In late 2016 Fred Segal Inc. announced the opening of an all-new Fred Segal flagship store on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood. Meanwhile, things were moving fast for the company. A second Tokyo store had opened and a third Japan store, in Kobe, was in the works. Earlier in the year, Blum left to take another job, after just two years as CEO. His replacement, Allison Samek, had been a longtime manager at the Melrose site and took over the company's top spot in December 2016. In September 2017 the new 13,000-square-foot Sunset Boulevard flagship opened its doors with much fanfare. In the summer of 2018 the company announced its impending return to Malibu, after the Country Mart had been shuttered decades earlier. A new Fred Segal shopping complex was slated to open there in early 2019.
Bloomingdale's Inc.; Macy's, Inc.; Saks Fifth Avenue, Inc.
Apodaca Jones, Rose. “Fred Segal: Sharing the Fun.” WWD, December 11, 2003, 16B.
Daswani, Kavita. “Fred Segal, One of the Most Iconic Names in L.A. Retail, Finds Its Designer Footing on Sunset Boulevard.” Los Angeles Times, December 15, 2017.
Lockwood, Lisa. “Deal Puts Fred Segal Brand in Japan.” WWD, November 20, 2012, 2.
———. “Fred Segal's New Owner.” WWD, May 3, 2012, 1.
Patel, Shivani. “Fred Segal Will Return to Malibu in 2019.” Malibu (CA) Times, June 22, 2018.
Schmidt, Ingrid. “Inside the New Fred Segal Flagship Opening in L.A. This Week.” Hollywood Reporter, September 26, 2017.