King of Luxury: By Appointment Only

Everyone who’s anyone knows him. You have seen his huge billboards in Los Angeles. When you’re on Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills, you automatically notice the Yellow Rolls-Royce Phantom parked in front one day, and his Buggati or yellow Ferrari the next. The showroom windows are changed monthly, along with fresh flowers outside, lining the façade. This time when I’m at the showroom, Bijan has all of his clients’ names, respectfully displayed and their corresponding countries with flags on clocks that are gracing the windows, immediately catching your attention. And, each clock is set to the time of that country. You have everyone from Steve Wynn, Carlos Slim, Vladmir Putin, and George Bush, to name a few. Once you approach the door, you notice a sign that reads “By Appointment Only”, something that Bijan has had since he opened on Rodeo Drive in 1976. Some people think it might be a marketing ploy, but Bijan holds true, as he has a full staff of employees working every day, sometimes only seeing one or two clients per day. Those clients can spend upwards of $5 million in one sitting or fitting, which makes Bijan seemingly the “King of Luxury.”

I was fortunate enough to walk inside this 15,000-square foot flagship store, notorious for being one of the most expensive stores in the world. I was first greeted by three beautiful women serving espresso, water, soda or even a flute of champagne. Looking around, I saw pictures of renowned world leaders and heads of state, from Presidents of the United States like Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush, to Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, and the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. There were also shots of international celebrities and moguls like Jack Nicholson, German television host, Thomas Gottschalk, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Carlos Slim Helu, Al Pacino and Maestro Shahram Nazeri. They all are friends with Bijan and have personally been dressed by him. After passing by the photos of Bijan’s illustrious clientele, I noticed the arrangement of his showroom by style and color, that it is divided by suggested outfits, expertly coordinated by him and his staff to best fit the styles of the season and an individual’s taste. There is also a giant painting of a couple by Columbian artist Fernando Botero, entitled “The Rich.” Apropo. A personal possession from the late Shah of Iran, a suit he wore in the late 1970’s, is showcased in the store, and is one of Bijan’s most prized possessions. There’s a special photograph with all of the Presidents, both past and present, including, Bill Clinton, George Bush Sr., George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Jimmy Carter. Every President is wearing a Bijan design (except Jimmy Carter). Bijan’s store is filled with marble floors, elegant woods, a sweeping staircase, sparkling crystal chandelier (comprised of over 1,100 of his signature perfume bottles filled with pure perfume), all bathed by sunlight that pours through the store’s enormous windows.

To sit down with Bijan, you get to understand his passion, and his commitment to excellence in luxury. Since his start in the early 1970’s, he has always been dressing the most powerful people in the world. He was born and grew up in Iran, but studied fashion design and textiles in Switzerland and Italy in the 1960’s before heading back to his native Iran in the early 1970’s. There, he designed clothes for the Royal Family, including the Shah of Iran, the Prime Minister, and the jet-setters in the Middle East. At such a young age he had the opportunity to build his brand, but he realized it was not big enough for him to be a worldwide brand, so he made the executive decision to come to America, where he had the vision to open his first store on Rodeo Drive (the flagship store for over 35 years). Bijan comments that he was honored to become an American citizen. When he first opened his store on Rodeo Drive, the Montage Hotel, Harry Winston, Cartier, Tom Ford, or Yves St. Laurent did not yet exist on the road they would make famous. All that was there was a gas station and a couple of clothing shops. Plus, for Bijan to open the store, and right out of the gate only cater to his clients by appointment only, is how Bijan has always ran his business—different than everyone else. He comments how another top luxury store, Gucci, compared themselves to Bijan, but he says No-No. “At the end of the 70s, they had the first floor for everyone, and then an elevator would take VIP clients up to the mezzanine level,” he said, and continued, “I only catered to VIP clients with good taste since I first launched in America in 1976.” In 1983 Bijan expanded his growing empire by opening his next shop on New York’s Fifth Avenue. The Manhattan showroom was just as remarkable as its West Coast counterpart, and, without surprise, continued Bijan’s success. He catered to all the Wall Street players, along with world leaders visiting New York for business or convening at the United Nations. He did very well in New York, but when I asked him about not being in New York now, he said that his numbers grew the following years, and his top clients eagerly came to him in Beverly Hills just to shop with him. Bijan’s extreme loyalty among his clientele is what makes him such a special figure. His clothing is so rare and unique that people will specially fly in just to get what cannot be had anywhere else is the world.

Unlike other fashion designs, Bijan creates each piece of clothing and accessory with an artisan’s care and skill. For example, he showed me how much detail he puts into each of his one-of-a-kind limited edition ties. Beginning with his own personal designs, Bijan then carefully selects only the finest silks for their production—even the tie box is exquisitely designed to properly store and showcase the unique neckwear resting within. There is never one design that is the same as another. Attention to detail is very important to Bijan. Whether you purchase a tie, jacket, suit, shirt, or accessory, you are guaranteed to come away with a unique, specialty item made from only the finest materials available in the world. Perhaps that is why Bijan is able to charge $1,200 a tie set in a silk box, or up to $25,000 for a suit. When designing for the top 1% in the world, expense is not simply a matter of cost, but a statement of taste.