He vacationed with Leonardo DiCaprio, Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss, hired Rod Stewart and Tom Jones to sing at his three-day 60th birthday party and was able to tap both Beyoncé Knowles and Andrea Bocelli to play at his son Brandon’s Bar Mitzvah. Just who is Sir Philip Green? What a silly question. He’s the man responsible for delivering the long-awaited Topshop to Los Angeles, of course. And, with his typical fabulous flair, he delivered said store on Valentine’s Day like the biggest and best of love letters.
Though LA’s fashion-focused residents feared it would never come, Sir Philip is adamant that the presence of his haute U.K. chain in the City of Angels was never a question of ‘if,’ just a question of ‘where.’
“I don’t think it’s about ‘finally.’ The strategy always was that we’d open a location in Los Angeles,” the 60-year-old Arcadia Group CEO maintains from the plush VIP room inside his new store at The Grove. “But we wanted to find special sites, special locations to make it really stand out. This is two years in the making: finding a location, discussing with [The Grove’s developer] Rick Caruso, waiting for people to move out. It’s not easy. You can open a store in any city in the world, but you won’t be successful without a special space and visibility.”
This is Green’s fourth location in the U.S.; he has opened stores in New York City, Chicago and Las Vegas in recent years. His three American outlets are a miniscule part of his empire, however: he has 400 plus shops in more than 38 countries – all of which were created just over ten years ago. Each store also houses its menswear collection, Topman.
While his success is staggering, Sir Philip – knighted as such in 2006 – has a very simple recipe for creating his fortune. “We have a very clear strategy,” he confides. “Each location is very individual. Here [at The Grove] is a great corner. We’ve been very fortunate. Twenty percent of our sales shipping out of the States are from California, so we’ve got some traction. I’m prepared to take time and wait for this to be a success.”
He won’t have to wait long, if the Topshop’s opening day is any indication: 10,000 people were on hand to herald the store’s February 14 launch.
But then, Sir Philip is shrewd. He knew the arrival of Topshop was a cause for celebration, and, in return, he threw the store one heck of a party to mark the occasion, which became the biggest retail store opening in The Grove’s history. 10,000 Angelenos were on hand to experience the faux British block party, which featured male models in miniscule shorts, lemonade, cotton candy, temporary tattoos, free giveaways, a DJ and a live performance by pop star Demi Lovato; Hollywood star Kate Bosworth was also present.
The former may seem to some like a random choice, but with Sir Philip, every move is calculated. The 20-year-old Lovato, a former Disney star, appears as a mentor on close friend Simon Cowell’s Fox show, The X-Factor, and both he and his brand have been working at covertly changing her style.
“We’ve been working with Demi quietly for the last six months,” Green confides. “We’ve been dressing her and helping to develop her. My guys have done a great job. We’re just helping out.” As the results show given the 20-year-old singer’s newly chic style, his work has paid off.
Lovato isn’t Topshop’s only celebrity fan, of course: Jennifer Lopez, Kim Kardashian, Lydia Hearst, Ryan Seacrest, Randy Jackson, Julianne Hough, Kelly Osbourne, Jane Seymour and Russell Brand were just a few of the names who came out to celebrate with Sir Philip, his wife Tina and daughter Chloe at a pre-opening dinner held at Hollywood hotspot Cecconi’s on February 13.
He cleverly involves his celebrity friends in the business as well. Kate Moss designed a capsule collection for the brand in 2007 and the Kardashian sisters recently designed a collection for Dorothy Perkins, another of his U.K. chains.
The former was such a hit that Sir Philip doesn’t dismiss the idea that the supermodel will design for him again. “Who knows? This isn’t a conversation we’ve had recently, but it could happen. I think we would never try to replace Kate. That was a moment, but maybe we could do something again.”
He is far more certain that the Kardashians will not be designing for Topshop. He explains tactfully, “They work with our U.K. brand, Dorothy Perkins. I felt that that brand was a fit, as it was akin to what they were doing here in the U.S. with Sears. [Dorothy Perkins] is more in line with that brand.”
There is a reason that Green is able to call some of the biggest celebrities in the world friends, and that is because he has earned their trust.
“We shop a lot of celebrity people, but in a polite way,” Green explains of his brand’s A-list following. “We don’t call newspapers. They come and want to shop with us. We respect that. That’s a relationship we’ve got with a lot of people who come here. They trust us. It’s important that we respect people’s privacy.”
This is just one ingredient in the recipe to Sir Philip’s success and why he has a reported net worth of $5.6 billion. Another is how involved he is in the day-to-day operation of every single one of his stores.
“I’m a hands-on owner,” he says. “Different weeks I talk to different store managers. They call me, tell me what’s happening, what they’re selling. I’m engaged at that level, one-on-one. The store manager [in LA] will have to call me every night. He’ll call me on my cell every night for the first month because I want to know what’s going on. He can call me at 6 am or midnight, and I’ll answer.”
As if to prove his point, he receives a call from the manager of his Chicago store, and is both business-like and positive at the same time. “Chuck, how are you?” Pause. “Keep working! Little slow last week. Thank you.” He keeps things quick and concise, and moves on.
“Sorry about that,” he apologizes, stopping again to check his phone. He has received a text saying, “You’re the best.”
Sir Philip smiles. “I am!” he laughs. “I am reliable, I’m focused, yes doesn’t mean maybe, no doesn’t mean maybe. There is no grey in my world. If I say it’s done, you can take it to the bank, it means I’m going to do it. If I say I’m going to call you at 9 o’clock it will be 9 o’clock. People stay with me a long time. They trust me, they know I’m there through the good and the bad.”
However, there isn’t much bad in Sir Philip’s world. The only thing he lacks is time. “There aren’t enough hours in the day,” he laments, before revealing that he recently spent four days relaxing at the tony Canyon Ranch health resort in Tucson, Arizona prior to the LA Topshop opening.
“It was a luxury,” he says. “To have time, space. It was spectacular. There were blue skies, you’re walking and see mountains. I had time to think in an open space and was in a completely different zone. I was going there to get healthy and do something I wanted to do that I really need to make more time for. I was working out four, five hours a day on the treadmill, or walking, or playing tennis. When I left, I felt great. I had four days of pushing myself hard physically. I was going there to get healthy, lose a bit of weight, get in the zone. I had better discipline while I was there. I turned into somebody else. It was nice for me.”
But then it was back to LA, back to work and back to the reality of launching a massive business venture. Relaxing is a thing of the past. After all, how else can a man known for creating a brand professing to be the top shop live up to his word?