Fred Segal, Designer Who Commodified California Cool, Dies at 87

Fred Segal, whose fashion boutiques became a Los Angeles landmark selling figure-hugging jeans and chambray shirts to Bob Dylan, Farah Fawcett and the Beatles, died Thursday in Santa Monica, California. He was 87 years old.

The cause was complications from a stroke, said a spokeswoman for his family.

Mr. Segal became one of the best-known designers and retailers on the West Coast in the 1960s, shaping the image of Southern California fashion as airy, sexy and relaxed. His ivy-covered shop became a meeting place for fashionistas, Hollywood actors, and well-known artists and musicians. For tourists, it was often a sightseeing tour right next to Grauman’s Chinese theater and the Hollywood sign.

Recognition…Family photo

Mr. Segal opened his first shop in 1960. According to the company’s website, it was a 700-square-foot space on Santa Monica Boulevard that sold jeans, chambray shirts and pants, velvets, and flannels.

In 1961, Mr. Segal and his nephew, Ron Herman, opened a half-size store on Melrose Avenue, selling only jeans that they sold for $ 19.95 a pair – a price they were at the time when they were men was still practically unknown, was practically unknown was wearing suits and jeans that normally sold for $ 3 a pair.

“My concept was that people wanted to be comfortable, casual and sexy, so I thought it would work, and obviously it worked,” Segal said in a 2012 interview with Haute Living magazine.

People flocked to the store to buy the jeans, spurred on by celebrities like Jay Sebring, the barber who was one of the inspirations for Warren Beatty’s character in Shampoo, who wore tight, flared jeans and a fitted shirt he had bought from Mr. Segal. Mr. Segal’s customers soon included the Beatles, Elvis Presley and Diana Ross, as well as members of the Jackson Five and Jefferson Airplane.

“When I first came to LA in the late 1970s, everyone was talking about two things: Gucci bags and Fred Segal,” writer Pleasant Gehman told the New York Times in 2001.

His designs were characterized by fits that were unusual for the time. The trousers were cut for men to drop low on the hips, for example, and his stores also sold fitted French T-shirts and Danskin jerseys.

In addition to his designs, Mr. Segal was part of a small group of retailers at the time – others included Tommy Perse, Linda Dresner, and Joan Weinstein – who pioneered the concept of working closely with designers and matching the designers’ clothes in their stores sell, said Ikram Goldman, the owner of Chicago boutique Ikram.

“You had an exquisite eye,” said Ms. Goldman. “These are the people who discovered talent and brought it to light in ways that – before Instagram, before social media, before the news hit you – introduced collections you hadn’t seen before.”

In 2006, a New York Times reporter described Mr. Segal as “the outfitter of those Hollywood fantasies, selling uniforms of expensive shirts and impossibly thoughtful blue jeans and kitten heels to the city’s wealthy residents and celebrities.”

Frederick Mandel Segal was born in Chicago on August 16, 1933. His parents, David and Helen Segal, had multiple jobs, according to the family spokeswoman, and Mr. Segal grew up poor.

Mr. Segal never went to fashion school. He worked as a traveling shoe salesman and shone in Venice Beach – two jobs where he could watch people and develop a sense of what buyers wanted.

Tired of traveling, he decided to open his first shop in 1960.

Mr. Segal owed his early success to his ability to be honest with customers.

“I learned at a very young age that the non-competitive space has integrity,” Segal told Haute Living. “When I was selling to my customers in my store and they came to buy this or that, when they put on an outfit and asked for my advice, I would sometimes say, ‘Take this off, don’t even buy this, it would be ridiculous , you don’t even look good in it. ‘That is really deep honesty. You don’t find that in the store, you know? “

After all, there were Fred Segal stores in Taiwan and in Bern, the capital of Switzerland. In 2015, the brand opened a store in Tokyo that also included an on-site food truck selling Mexican street corn, shrimp on a roll, and hot dogs along with Coca-Cola and Corona.

The name Fred Segal became so popular that it was mentioned casually in films such as “Clueless” and “Legally Blonde”.

Mr. Segal is survived by his wife Tina; five children, Michael, Judy, Sharon, Nina, and Annie; 10 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

Mike Ives contributed to the coverage and Jack Begg contributed to the research.

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