After decades of inspired merchandising that made his mark on the Los Angeles landscape and culture, helped define “California cool”, introduced new designers and brands to the mainstream, and ultimately revolutionized the retail industry, Fred Segal passed away this year at the age of 87.
Segal himself hadn’t owned his eponymous retailer for many years, but the store and its many innovations continued. His ideas from years ago include in-store boutiques, new designer and brand incubations, pop-up shops and brand collaborations. But it’s not just that these concepts are now indelible hallmarks in retail. It’s also how Fred Segal – the concept, the retailer, the brand – endures. Some emblematic places of Fred Segal remain must-sees in Malibu and West Hollywood; the name and logo are still abandoned in popular culture to signify the laid back luxury of Southern California. In many ways, however, under a new owner, Fred Segal is just getting started.
Jeff Lotman, the founder of brand licensing firm Global Icons, which bought Fred Segal in 2019, sees a lot in Fred Segal’s past on which to base a comeback. The company relaunched Camp Beverly Hills, an 80s sportswear favorite this year, and the response has so far exceeded expectations, Lotman said by phone.
“Because we’re 60 years old, we have this authenticity,” he said. “WWe play in the 60s, we play in the 70s, we play in the 80s, we play in the 90s. And there have been so many brands that have sprung up at Fred. You watch Kate Spade, you watch Juicy [Couture], you look at Hard Candy, you look at Origins … all these brands started at Fred Segal. Things that were essential words today, the pop-up, the collaboration that Fred had been doing for the longest time. It’s about being true to who you are, and when you have that ability, it’s exciting. “
Incubation is back at Fred Segal, through a national competition called Season Zero. The first round was held in cooperation with the Black in Fashion Council, with a grand prize of $ 10,000, mentorship and pop-up showcase at Fred Segal, and second and third prizes of $ 5,000 each.
Without Fred Segal himself at the helm in recent years, the retailer was somewhat frozen in time. But neglect has had some benefits in a way. As clothing chains like Gap, Banana Republic, Victoria’s Secret and others reduce their exaggerated footprints and leave failing malls, Fred Segal is growing. Lotman plans to operate a maximum of five or six stores in the United States, perhaps entering favorable markets like Miami, Houston or Dallas; in addition to its stores in california, Fred Segal has just opened in Las Vegas.
“It’s about being true to who you are, and when you have that ability, it’s exciting.”
CEO of Global Icons and Owner of Fred Segal
In Asia, however, Lotman sees the potential for “a few hundred” physical locations, based on research that has found affinity for Los Angeles and the Southern California vibe to be “high” in places like the China and Japan. The company recently opened a store in Korea.
“And the home run for us will be e-commerce,” Lotman said. “The same way we run brands in our store very quickly, giving them a moment, we’re going to be doing the same online at the same time.”
Private label, an approach Fred Segal hasn’t quite taken, is also in the spotlight, Lotman said, adding that a new knitwear sub-brand is expected to debut in a few months.
“We have a really unique dichotomy of clients that we can find, because we cross over generations of people and children,” he said. “We get the kids who love it, then you get the 35 to almost 55 who have known [reviving trends], and then you get this mother-daughter, father-son kind of thing going on. It’s great because it almost resets the brand’s clock to zero. “