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Fred Segal, Famed Los Angeles Retailer, Dies at 87

Fred Segal, whose name is well known from the red, white and blue lettered sign of the famous ivy-covered Los Angeles store he founded, died on Thursday. He was 87.

The cause was complications from a stroke, according to a representative of the brand. He is survived by a large family, including his wife, five children, ten grandchildren and even two great-grandchildren. Many of them are also tastemakers, who have been involved in the retail and fashion business over the years, including Michael Segal, Nina Segal, Sharon Segal and Annie Segal.

“To the very end, he inspired us to never give up. He will be forever loved and celebrated,” a statement from the family reads. “He was a true artist who dedicated his life to evolving as a human being in every aspect. He challenged us to expand our minds and our hearts, to go deeper and to do better. He was an innovator, a forward thinker, a rule breaker, a mentor to so many, such a lover of life and a humanitarian. Anyone who knew him, felt his powerful energy. He worked his whole life to have self love and to teach all of us to love one another.”

Born in 1933, Segal in 1961 opened his eponymous store on Santa Monica Boulevard in L.A.’s West Hollywood, in a 300 square-foot space with an inventory of almost entirely denim. The jeans sold for the then unheard of price of $19.95, making him the first to to market premium denim. His “jeans bar,” as he called it, was a revolutionary concept for the time. As the store grew in popularity, so did the size; Segal eventually moved to Crescent Heights and Melrose Avenue, and started asking employees to manage their own spaces inside the store as it expanded, leading him to pioneer the “shop-in-shop” style of retail.

“I loved that man. He was a true original,” said retail developer Rick Caruso, who met and became friends with Segal 25 years ago. “I most admired him for his instinct and ability to innovate, but he was also kindness personified. He was truly the first disruptor in the retail business and he dared to break every rule and in doing so created an energy that became the best shopping experience of its time.”

“He had the vision as a landlord to move from Santa Monica to Melrose, and to start buying up homes to add another shop and another to create the center,” said John Eshaya, who worked at the Melrose center from 1984 to 2008. “There were no stores in the neighborhood at that time, but eventually, Miu Miu and RRL opened nearby, then Marc Jacobs further down the street. He also opened in Malibu Country Mart, the first to bring fashion retail to Malibu.”

A number of influential retailers had stores in Fred Segal on Melrose, which became the epicenter of L.A. cool, including Ron Herman and Ron Robinson.

“His whole thing was to get young people to open their own stores. He didn’t go after huge chains,” said Eshaya, who was the women’s creative director for Ron Herman.  “He knew and gave opportunity to young retail entrepreneurs.”

The buyers at the stores in Fred Segal helped cultivate the L.A. look, discovering early on local-turned-global fashion and beauty brands Hard Candy, Earl Jeans, Guess Jeans, Jeremy Scott, Trina Turk and Juicy Couture, which sat beside European luxury labels such as Dolce & Gabbana and Prada.

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