Entering the world of Bijan on Rodeo Drive is like stepping into a Renaissance villa. His 15,000-square-foot flagship store is filled with marble floors, elegant woods, a sweeping staircase, sparkling chandeliers and ultra-brilliant colors, all bathed by sunlight that pours through the store's giant windows. There's even a giant painting of a couple by Botero, aptly titled, "The Rich," in case shoppers don't get the hint that this is no ordinary boutique. The store, as one of Bijan's advertising slogans reports, sells "The costliest men's wear in the world."
Indeed, modern-day Medicis jam Bijan's client list, dropping enormous sums on suits that start at $5,500, silk tie sets that begin at $460 and cotton shirts that start at $750.
Bijan's company generates more than $200 million a year globally in revenues from fragrances, including a line licensed to Michael Jordan. Bijan's clothing and jewelry adds an additional $40 million annually. The company is privately held and does not publicly disclose its earnings or other financial details.
While Bijan also declined to identify just who his clients are, there are enough smiling photographs of power players like President Clinton and Prince Charles in his boutique to give a hint. Others reportedly are Harrison Ford, Sean Connery, Jack Nicholson, Prince Rainier of Monaco, Larry King, Ted Turner, Steven Spielberg, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ricky Martin. His clients come from 40 countries.
Born in Tehran of wealthy parents, Bijan Pakzad opened his Beverly Hills boutique in 1976 and another in New York on Fifth Avenue in 1983. Staffers say it is not uncommon for clients to spend more than $1 million on a one-day shopping spree there.
One of his latest marketing trademarks is parking a $400,000 yellow Bentley Azure convertible at a meter in front of his boutique. He assures himself a spot each day by having one of his staff members arrive early and park in front of the store. Once the boss arrives, the staffer relinquishes the space to the Bentley.
Question: Do Hollywood men dress well?
Answer: Old Hollywood, most definitely. You cannot deny the elegance of Cary Grant or Clark Gable. New Hollywood, however, is a different story. I believe that men want to look good an example is at the Oscars but they have difficulty spending money on their wardrobes. Many simply borrow clothing and accessories for an event and dress poorly the rest of the time.
Q: Why did you create "By Appointment Only" at your Rodeo Drive store?
A: That's my style. I remember when I opened the store on Rodeo Drive 24 years ago, people thought it was annoying. "How can you," they said, "want people to make appointments when they can walk down the street to anybody else?" I did this because I wanted respect for my line of clothes. I felt "By Appointment Only" would gain me that respect. You also need time for the money you will spend.
Q: Why did you spend $12 million to refurbish your Rodeo Drive store?
A: It makes the wealthy and successful people feel comfortable. Many of my clients are difficult men, and they come from not just the United States, but France, Japan, England, Germany and Australia. You want to show them their money is worth something. Showing off the clothing in a beautiful environment is not enough. The quality, the details and the uniqueness need to be there.
Q: What is the key to your success?
A: Simply, you have to be different. There are so many designers in men's fashions today. I kept the designs classic and didn't go crazy, like expanding to a woman's line like so many others have done. I am not an expert in that area. It is also important to know when to say no.
Q: What do you mean by saying no?
A: When Michael Jordan came to me, we had a huge success with his fragrances. After that, many other celebrities wanted to get involved with me. Madonna was calling me and Ricky Martin was calling. You simply have to be able to say no. I knew that I could not handle them perfectly.
Q: How involved do you get in the lives of your clients when you're selling clothes to them?
A: I study my clients. I get to know their needs and their profession. Does he really need that yellow jacket? Perhaps not, because he is in Washington, D.C. But a blue pin-stripped suit? Would it be good for Cannes or the Cote d'Azur? No, it wouldn't. The classic look is important. I didn't jump from tree to tree like a bird because other trees are doing well. I keep to what I know. Classic looks always will remain.
Q: How important is it for a successful businessman to dress well?
A: Very important. There are a lot of stories about the casual look, especially on Fridays. I don't accept that for someone who wants to be a success. The first 15 minutes creates an impression. It doesn't matter if you are a Yale or Harvard graduate. If you are sloppy and not properly dressed, it will affect your business, especially when you are meeting someone for the first time. You have to be bright, of course, just looking good isn't enough, but those first impressions are very important. It is a part of success. The people who run Fortune 500 companies understand this.
Q: What are the bare essentials for a businessman to dress well in Los Angeles?
A: Three or four suits a year, one dark and one light. You need a half dozen shirts in different colors. A well-dressed man should have a blazer, blue or black, and gray flannel trousers and a couple of blue shirts to go with them. These essentials make a small collection.
Q: Why are your ties and pocket squares, which start at $460, better than Mr. Armani's, who is just down the street from you?
A: With respect for Mr. Armani, my ties are chosen by me and for the client I have in mind. I go back and forth to Lake Como (where they are made) to make sure the color and the print and the quality and weight is right. But I only make four or eight ties, maximum. The box the ties come in may cost $30 or $40 alone. I have a line of jewelry, and when I make a watch, I'll make only 10 pieces, gold or platinum. To make such a limited run is very difficult and very expensive. But for someone who buys one of my watches, for example, he will have the satisfaction to know that he has only one of 10. I am not like Cartier that makes 35,000 watches in gold or platinum. I am not like Calvin Klein who makes 1 million pairs of jeans. I offer uniqueness.
Q: What inspires you?
A: I don't now. There was a fire at the St. Regis Hotel in New York and my store is nearby. Those firemen tall, huge guys came to see if there was any smoke in our store. Two days later, we found in the basement near the exit a jacket from the New York Fire Department. It smelled of smoke. We called, and they said, "Throw it away." How come I took that jacket to Italy and I made a three-quarter-length leather jacket, dark blue, bright striped in yellow? It was fun, and I lined it in silk. Why do I have advertisements with a big fat woman? I don't know. Inspiration comes to me. I see my little son playing with a Slinky, maybe a $1 toy. But now I have a new perfume, Bijan with a Twist.
Q: You have made suits, ties, jewelry, luggage, a gun and fragrances. What's next?
A: On the side, a car. Bentley and I designed a car (a yellow Azure convertible). If you go to London and you don't know the color, people will say it is Bijan Yellow. Airline interiors, yachts. Those are on the side. Clothing is my real babies.
Q: What's the fun in the job?
A: You feel so good when you see someone wearing my clothes. It's like wow, a biggie. Part of the fun is selling to a young man who becomes a middle-aged man. Part of the fun is to sell to the daddy and years later I am selling to the son. Part of the fun is gaining the respect of powerful men who want to be part of your club. When King Juan Carlos of Spain bought a watch for Princess Diana, that made me feel good.
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