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Friday, Feb 3, 2023

California Market Bets on Mixing Fashion, Home Products

Fashion mixes with rock stars, nightclubs and parties, but what about crystal, dishware and stationery?

Robert Sotomayor, the California Market Center’s new director of gift and home leasing, thinks so. He’s betting that the wholesale apparel mart’s concentration of fashion wholesalers can lure new gift and home tenants.

The idea is that retailers who stock the latest hip clothing are also interested in the latest hip homeware. “We have the fashion industry and what we are trying to create is that crossover niche with gift and home products,” Sotomayor said.

The crossover sets the center apart from the competing L.A. Mart, which has tried to attract that center’s gift and home showroom tenants.

Sotomayor said he has two companies that will fill a 14,000 square-foot vacancy created when the Firestone Marketing Group exited for the L.A. Mart. He wouldn’t disclose the name of the companies, pending lease agreements.

He says there’s up to 45,000 square feet of gift and home showroom space still vacant in the gift and home section at the top floors of the center’s C building.

Firestone left for the L.A. Mart amid confusion about the direction of the center’s management when Jamison Properties Inc. took over ownership of the property earlier this year. Uncertainty about management changes still concerns potential tenants, Sotomayor acknowledged.

But Mickey Lang, president of California Market Associates, the center’s largest gift and home tenant, at 40,000 square feet, said the hiring of Sotomayor, who previously worked at the L.A. Mart, shows Jamison is committed to expanding its gift and home presence. “They came in totally ignorant of our business. They are working very feverishly to learn it,” he said.

Still some tenants are skeptical that the moves will improve the center’s gift and home offerings, saying that tenants continue to migrate to the L.A. Mart.

Baby Boom

It’s been called the year of the baby in Hollywood, with Angelina Jolie, Britney Spears and Jennifer Garner either having or adopting babies.

And while they may be dressed in blue or pink, they are bringing green to baby blanket maker Little Jiraffe Inc.

The celebrity baby boom has given widespread exposure to the Van Nuys company. Jolie was recently pictured in People magazine with her adopted daughter, Zahara, wrapped in a chenille blanket from Little Jiraffe.

The publicity has helped the company’s products get into 4,000 stores this year, up from 50 when the business started in 2000. The blankets sell for $60 at specialty baby retailers.

Little Jiraffe has spawned imitators. Los Angeles-based My Blankee Inc. has been peddling similar wares in an effort to get a piece of the action. “That is the flipside of success,” said Sharyn Newberg, president of Little Jiraffe.

Sovage Styles

Won-G is a rapper, but you might not know it from his fashion line.

The 26-year-old wants to keep the upcoming line distinct from his music career to ensure that Won-G’s clothes will sell even if his music doesn’t. The name of the line is Sovage, not Won-G, and the look is more couture than urban.

“When you are building a brand, the brand has to stand alone. It can’t be pinpointed around your name,” said Won-G. “This thing is a 20-year run for me.”

Certainly, Won-G isn’t the only musician to hop into the fashion business. Pop star Justin Timberlake will soon be selling William Rast-branded jeans and T-shirts developed with business partners Trace Ayala and Danny Guez, founder of the Los Angeles-based apparel company People’s Liberation.

Sovage will include tops and high-end jeans, expected to retail at about $175 at stores like Fred Segal. Won-G is limiting the clothes’ release to upscale outlets to build the brand’s cachet.

Still, Won-G, who lives in Los Angeles, said he hopes the Sovage line will be sold in up to 200 stores. He is also working on distributing the line abroad to Italy and Germany, among other countries.

Furniture Generation

Michael Payne, host of HGTV’s “Designing for the Sexes,” has teamed up with Culver City-based Powell Co. to develop a furniture collection targeting the upcoming generation of homeowners.

The collection, called 7 Series, is made in maple and cherry and will be available shortly in stores nationwide. Payne, who lives in Los Angeles, has designed the contemporary furniture, which has curved lines that resemble sevens, to appeal to customers in their 20s and early 30s.

Made in China, Payne said that 7 Series furniture will be price competitive with mass furniture merchandisers such as Ikea International A/S. The 7 Series is one of three collections that Payne has designed for Powell, a furniture company established in 1968.

*Staff reporter Rachel Brown can be reached by phone at (323) 549-5225, ext. 224, or by e-mail at




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