fred segal, the retail giant that helped shape the fashion and cultural landscape in los angeles by launching new designers and providing yarns for blue-chip clientele like the beatles, diana ross, the jackson 5 and angelina jolie, has died. he was 87 years old.
Segal died Thursday of complications from a stroke at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, a publicist announced.
had suffered a stroke on feb. on January 5, 2014, something he himself announced in a Christmas card sent to friends and family at the end of the year with the message that “life as we knew it would never be the same again”. But the enigmatic Segal showed off his personality and zest for life by including a photo of himself wearing a hat, smoking a cigarette, and raising his middle finger with the catchphrase “Stroke this.”
at the time, his daughter annie segal told the hollywood reporter that “the doctors warned us there was little chance of survival, so we were prepared for the worst. it’s a miracle that he’s not only alive, but living well under the circumstances.”
Segal opened his first namesake store, a designer denim emporium, in 1961 on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood. according to the brand’s website, it was a modest 350-square-foot space with 85 percent of the inventory made up of “the namesake jeans along with shirts and pants in chambray, velvet, and flannel.”
later moved the operation to the location for which it is best known, at melrose avenue and crescent heights boulevard, drawing crowds and causing traffic jams as shoppers descended to purchase denim that far exceeded the typical prices for that epoch. (Segal sold jeans for $19.95 when other stores offered styles for $3.)
Segal showed he had a talent for emerging designers, but also shaped a retail experience that would transform the industry. He pioneered the then-novel store-within-a-store concept and experiential retail that introduced emerging brands synonymous with social style (think juicy couture, hard candy cosmetics, and earl jeans).
according to the company, early clients included the beatles, elvis presley, ross and the jackson 5, and farrah fawcett was photographed on a skateboard wearing segal jeans for an ad campaign.
Segal, who created an atmosphere where trend-obsessed artists, musicians and fashionistas could mingle under the same roof, attributed part of his success to maintaining a degree of honesty with his clients.
“I learned at a very young age that the area of non-compete is in integrity,” he said. “So if people are totally honest with themselves and then honest with everyone around them, there’s no contest on that.
“for example, when I was selling in my store to my customers and they came in wanting to buy this or that, if they put on an outfit and asked me for advice, part of the time I would say, ‘take that off, don’t even buy it’ , that would be ridiculous, you don’t even look good in that’, that’s a very profound honesty. You don’t find that in business, you know?”
The retailer’s iconic ivy-covered West Hollywood location became a celebrity hangout over the years and was featured prominently in the classic 1995 teen comedy, Clueless.
“It looked great! where is my fred segal white collarless shirt? says alicia silverstone’s cher in the film directed by amy heckerling. A few years later, Reese Witherspoon’s Elle Woods declares in Legally Blonde (2001), “and last week, I saw Cameron Diaz in Fred Segal, and I talked her out of buying this truly atrocious angora sweater.”
Jokes aside, it wasn’t uncommon to see Diaz or other A-list stars like Jennifer Aniston perusing Fred Segal’s stores or dining at the bustling hotel restaurant that was, for many years, an industry powerhouse lunch and dinner . period.
Segal expanded his brand to various outposts as his California empire grew with addresses in Santa Monica, filling the locations with family members. Her son, Michael, would eventually become CEO and her daughters, Annie and Sharon, once maintained their own stores within the store.
in 2012, new york-based media company sandow acquired the global license rights to the fred segal name. the company is now owned by global icons, who acquired the brand in 2019.
according to the company’s website, there are now locations on sunset boulevard; in Malibu; in lax; in bern, germany; and in Taipei, with reports this week saying additional locations are planned for Las Vegas. Still, it hasn’t been immune to the recent slump in retail business, with its Santa Monica location closing and the Melrose outpost no longer the hotspot it once was.
Segal “was an innovator, a forward thinker, a rule breaker, a mentor to so many, a great lover of life and a humanitarian,” his family said in a statement. “Anyone who met him felt the powerful energy from him. he worked his whole life to have self love and teach us all to love each other. until the end, he inspired us to never give up. he will be loved and celebrated forever.”
Survivors include his wife, Tina; five children, 10 grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, two stepchildren and one stepson.
donations can be made in his name to the segal family-united world foundation at 10960 wilshire blvd. suite 1100 los angeles, ca 90024.