Fred Segal Organization:

Fred Segal stores

Born:

1933 in Chicago, family moved to Los Angeles in 1934

Education:

UCLA

Career Turning Point:

Awareness of good health

Most Admired Person:

His Holiness the Dalai Lama, President Jimmy Carter

Hobbies:

Swimming, hiking, yoga, walking, Bonsai trees, study of good health, work with Noetic sciences.

Personal:

Married, five children, 4 grandchildren

Father of the hip blue jean has watched trends come and go, but the Fred Segal philosophy has survived

Fred Segal hit it big in the 60s when he developed the first fashion jean, a below-the-waist hip-hugging pant that sold for the unheard of price of $20. Nearly 40 years later, the fashion jean that looks much like Segal's first jeans is being called upon to boost retailers' sagging sales this year. Back is the low-rise pant and the flared pant legs.

Segal's jeans sold in a small Santa Monica Boulevard boutique he eventually moved to the corner of Melrose Avenue and Crescent Heights Boulevard.

He started his second store in 1984 when he transformed an old ice skating rink in Santa Monica into a fashion palace. The Santa Monica store encompasses 40 independently owned boutiques under one roof.

Over the years, the 68-year-old retailer has branched out into other areas, promoting peace and spirituality. He established the 240-acre Peace Park in Malibu. It has hiking trails, meditation areas and classes for yoga and meditation. Segal is a personal friend of the Dalai Lama and on the board of The Institute of Noetic Sciences, started by astronaut Ed Mitchell.

When not residing in his house in Peace Park, he stays at his homes in Montecito and Cabo San Lucas.

Question:

How did you get started?

Answer: I started as a salesman for a sportswear company called H.I.S. Sportswear. That was 45 years ago. I was the western regional sales manager. What I discovered is that without knowing it, I was designing a lot of the items and they were selling. Then I had this idea of doing fashion jeans. I brought it to the president of the company. He didn't like the idea and I quit. I opened a store and started developing jeans in my store, which was on Santa Monica Boulevard and Crescent Heights for 10 years. I moved in there over 40 years ago.

Q: What did those fashion jeans look like?

A: They were more expensive (than regular jeans). At that time there were no fashion jeans. I actually created the fashion jeans market. They were a lower rise jean that cost $20. Prior to that the highest priced jeans were $2.50 from Levi's, Lee and Wrangler.

Q: Why did you think fashion jeans would sell well?

A: I always knew that the 501 jeans everyone wore were worn as a utility fashion pant. And I thought there was a way to give it some appeal by doing it in a lighter weight jean fabric and a more expensive, higher style. It certainly worked. I was very fortunate because there was a hair salon nearby and they wore it as an outfit.

Q: Then what happened?

A: The blue jeans thing was done in West Hollywood. I opened a jeans only store and it was extremely successful. We had jeans from $6.95 to $500. In those days it would be like having a $10,000 jean today. I bought the corner lot at Melrose Avenue and Crescent Heights. I developed it and started adding other stores, a pant store, a shirt store, a children's store, a shoe store, all separate stores. Then I started developing the property and buying the block and building, ending up with a fashion department store.

Q: How has retailing changed?

A: When I started, the bulk of my merchandise was under my own brand name. Now we sell major brands from all over the world and our own brand names. And the customer has grown to understand fashion and casual living and casual attire. Consequently it is a mass business. In those days it was a very small business.

Q: What's the difference between the Melrose store and the Santa Monica store?

A: We do way more business in Santa Monica than on Melrose. But my idea was to have Melrose for 10 or 15 years, close it and make Santa Monica gigantic. But there were at that time four Fred Segal store owners and they didn't want to move. All Fred Segal is made up of 40 to 50 owners who own the stores. I don't own any stores. We're the landlords. We own the leases and properties.

Q: Explain the Fred Segal umbrella concept.

A: All these stores are separate but operate as one entity. We have the same hours, the same philosophies, the same sale once a year. The beauty of this is simply pride of ownership. If you have 40 people who own a store instead of one, it will work better. There is less chaos. Less theft. It is still a mom and pop store that has grown gigantically over the last 40 years.

Q: What is the Fred Segal philosophy?

A: It's a whole way of life. It blends almost with the spirituality. Our logo is "Look, see, feel, be, love all." That is on our packages, on our tags, on our cards. That is a total spiritual philosophy, and I think people are going to relate to it more and more. Meditation, yoga, good health, jogging, eating good food, having less stress. Taking more time to love yourself. Taking more time to love one another.

Q: Why not go national?

A: Because it would dissipate the energy of the whole fashion idea. People love to come here when they are traveling from New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Florida, while they are taking a trip to L.A.

Q: What do you do in sales?

A: We do over a $1,000 a square foot. We have some stores that do $3,000 a square foot and some stores that do $500.

Q: Who is your typical customer?

A: People who enjoy shopping, that enjoy the experience, who are not running in like we're a computer machine. People who like to have an outing. They come in. They have lunch. They bring their kids People who like to listen to music when they shop. We're a daytime nightclub. A very healthy one.

Q: How did you get to know the Dalai Lama?

A: It started when I was asked to do the Dalai Lama's birthday party when he was turning 54 at Peace Park. So we did his birthday party with 500 guests, mostly spiritual leaders from different parts of the world. Then he brought a group of spiritual people there and meditated.

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