Sunday, January 23, 2011

Beverly Hills Department Store Visits

I recently shopped in Beverly Hills, California.

I started at 'Ground Zero' of Beverly Hills shopping:  Rodeo Drive. Lots of Designer Shops. Vuitton: Check. Gucci: Check. Chanel: Check. Just like all the other similar streets in major cities throughout the world (maybe Beverly Hill's are larger and better stocked, but still with similar branded-looks). So I decided to hit the 'big three' department/specialty stores in Beverly Hills: Barneys New York, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Neiman Marcus.

Rodeo Drive

Barneys Beverly Hills

Barney New York, Beverly Hills: 9570 Wilshire Boulevard (at South Camden)

Being that I was on Rodeo Drive, I first walked to the store 'Barneys New York'. Barneys has a lovely exterior. A+ for sure. The interior is five floors, separated by an atrium and stairs. The list of designers it carries is phenomenal, the staff friendly, and the prices (sometimes) astronomical. The first floor includes cosmetics, accessories (including Valextra and Goyard, both Barneys exclusives) and women's shoes. It was extremely. There seemed to be some sort of cosmetics party, with nice gay men putting makeup on pulled-faced-tanned-bleached blonde socialites. 

The store, despite being 120,000 square feet of designer offerings with open, natural light, left me feeling a bit off. The interior is a bit average. The Jil Sander Boutique was as big ordinary, as was much of the rest of the designer floor. Barneys maintains a uniform look, despite having dedicated areas for desingers like Armain Black Label. I just didn't feel that excited being there. Sure it was Barneys, but I walked out feeli slightly underwhelmed. One complaint I have is its Wilshire Street entrance... it's barely there. It goes right into the cosmetics department. Yes, being in the land of the car, the better entrance to Beverly Hills department stores is often from behind, where one can park or be parked by valet. I prefer to stroll from shop-to-shop than be driven, but I suppose we have to realize that much of Beverly Hills was, unlike Manhattan, designed in the age of and catering to the motor vehicle. 

Speaking of which, I was shocked to find a surface parking lot immediately West of Barneys. Surely one would expect retail continuity on a street like Wilshire but, again, this is California. 

Barneys Women's Floor, Beverly Hills

Saks Fifth Avenue: "Saks East": 9600 Wilshire Boulevard (between S. Peck Dr. and S. Bedford Dr.)

Saks Beverly Hills is in two buildings. The larger (172,000 square feet), original store ('Saks East') is mostly for women, and the other, a former I. Magnin department store (now 'Saks West', 100,000 square feet), is three floors of men's and two floors of ladies' (ladies large-size and wedding dresses).  This Saks store is old. And classy. And really needs a decent Wilshire Blv entrance!!! But I digress. The main floor includes jewelry, cosmetics, accessories (including Vuitton/Valentino/Gucci/Prada shops etc etc) and a ground-floor women's shoe department, which was the only area in the store that seemed to be busy. The women's shoe department is on the West side of the women's building, and that part of the building is only ONE FLOOR. I'd suggest they build upward, but I believe the one story annex has some sort of historical significance as a former radio station (feel free to correct me on this). 

Saks East, Beverly Hills

The upper floors of Saks East are lovely collections of designer shops and collections. The second floor is 'American Designer Apparel' (with Moschino Cheap n' Chic from Italy, lol).  The third floor is the 'luxury floor' for women, with the usual Chanel/Dior/Oscar de la Renta/Jil Saner shops that one would expect. Levels 4, 5, 6 are women's 'contemporary'-apparel, and there is lingerie in the basement.

Saks East wasn't as big or glamorous as I had expected. I've been to Saks in Manhattan (which is enormous at 660,000 square feet), and for some reason I expected a similar impressiveness. The Beverly Hills store felt much smaller, a bit dated, and it certainly could benefit from an entrance grandly addressing Wilshire Boulevard.

Saks Fifth Avenue: "Saks West" (Wilshire and S. Bedford Dr.)

Saks West is in the former I. Magnin department store building. It's roughly 100,000 square feet. The first three floors are all men's wear (toalling about 60,000 sq ft). Ladies, it's worth walking into Saks West just to see the very high-ceiling-interiors and the chandeliers.  The first two floors are basically four 'rooms' around a circular central area.  The second floor is gorgeous as well, with high ceilings and large 'boutiques' for Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Armani Collezioni and Brioni/Kiton, surrounding another lovely oval main room and an offshoot made-to-measure tailoring oval. The third floor is for younger men, in a more contemporary space with lower ceilings. I skipped the top two floors.

I had sales people all over me in Saks West, mostly because the store was almost empty. How sad! I felt like pulling people off the street (Wilshire Blv was almost deserted anyways) just to show them the beautiful store and lovely merchandise. My only tiny complaint is the only way to access floors in Saks West, without walking a dingy fire-stairwell, is to take (old, lovely) elevators.
Saks West, Beverly Hills (Formerly an I.Magnin store)

Neiman Marcus: 9700 Wilshire Boulevard (between S. Roxbury Dr. and McCarthy Dr.)

The exterior of this store is terrible. It's like they took a suburban department store (or a large white bunker) and plopped it on an urban street. The entrances on Wilshire boulevard are awkward little doors. I had very low expectations for this apparently windowless, boring looking store.

Neiman Marcus, Beverly Hills

WOW WAS I WRONG! This store was absolutely fabulous inside. It was busy, bright, had lovely music, and had a high-ceilinged airiness about it. The central atrium (with escalators) has thousands of little gold things on strings (various Neiman Marcus stores have gold butterflies or other hanging items).  Windows face the parking lot at the back of the store, bringing in natural light especially to the forth floor. Natural light also comes from the atrium above, making Neiman Marcus an open, happy place to spend one's entire net worth.

I have to say these photos don't do the store justice.

The store is four floors above ground, and one below ground. The basement level has children's clothing and toys, home stuff, gifts, and some expensive food items. The main floor includes a stunning women's shoe department, including a dedicated corner/boutique for Roger Vivier. The main-floor jewelry, cosmetics, and accessories departments were all open and bright. The second floor is the women's 'designer floor', including Giorgio Armani Black Label and Akris boutiques.  Very well stocked (though missing Chanel, which is carried at Saks). The third floor is women's 'contemporary' designers (less expensive), and the fourth floor is for men's fashion (including a bar overlooking the atrium). The men's floor is lovely, very bright, and includes dedicated boutiques for Tom Ford and Giorgio Armani Black Label (very rare for men's wear, though it's also carried at Barney's in Beverly Hills).

Store staff were professional and friendly. Neimans' staff were less 'in your face' than staff at Saks, and I expect this was because Neiman Marcus had many more customers than Saks.
Women's Shoes, Ground Floor, Neiman Marcus Beverly Hills

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