Last night retail king Ron Robinson celebrated 40 years of his mainstay Melrose store at Fred Segal which is an LA institution. Not just living on past glory and his successful reputation for excellent taste and developing new talent, Robinson still reels in the best fashion designers and curates exceptional home accessories.
Some of the collaborations on display for the 40-year bash included a signature scented candle with Rosita Missoni created for the occasion, vintage rock tees from MADEWORN in West Hollywood, quirky art from Andre Mirapolski’s ‘prickly pins and fins’, collectable books from Taschen, a red felt hat from Gladys Tamez, a bold black watch from Nixon and a silver-hued leopard print leather jacket from Melissa Fleis. As always, cutting-edge new beauty products were on display, such as Alba from Poland, in the cult favorite Apothia section of the store that carries the best-selling IF perfume by Robinson. There is also an anniversary coffee table book on sale, pictured above (right) with editor-publisher Gus Floris of APPARELINSIDERS, that benefits the Red Cross.
We got the rare chance to catch up with Robinson last night who shared his insights on changes in the industry and future plans with us.
How have you stayed on top for 40 years carrying the coolest, cutting-edge merchandise?
Besides drinking and smoking a lot (laughs.)
The truth is after all of these years, there is something that happens innately and you just respond constantly in a certain way. And, the customer tells me. They don’t know they are telling me. I’m watching them and talking to them. The way the world is set up now, it’s different than when we started. We used to go out all over the world and look for the coolest things.
You mean the internet and social media?
I’ve been going to Japan since 1983. It was a goldmine for me. I made the most wonderful friends and brought back the most incredible stuff. We’d also go to Europe and bring things back. That was then. Now as soon as we’d come back excited about this great new thing, somebody has knocked it off or imported it. A lot of it comes from social media and all of the things that bring us information. I have people bringing things to me and we go out and seek. My world is now intersected with all of these things that help us keep up but unless you know how to apply it, it’s really just data. You have to sift through everything and curate what’s relative to what I’m doing. Karen Mina (store buyer) shares my DNA for the store, she has been with me for 24 years and is my “work wife.”
What would you tell your younger self just starting out?
Take more risks. I took risks but at times when your young take more of them. It’s the fear that gets you and the challenge of wrestling with your thoughts ‘should I, shouldn’t I’ as you get older. I had to make good decisions because I was self-funded but now if I knew then what I knew now I would be bolder.
What is your perfect day in West Hollywood?
I grew up for 25 years in West Hollywood and lived in the buildings that were in the parking lot behind Fred Segal Melrose. The concentration of restaurants and entertainment – it’s young and vibrant with energy and there is always something new happening. I see so much inspiration for what we do. Different customers come in and we draw from it. We need key people to identify. It’s the energy center of what is going on in LA. It’s cool and hip. You can sit at Mauro’s with soup or pasta and just watch people. When people are opening a hip, cool restaurant, it’s in Weho. Mozza is always great. My son, Max takes me to Soho House. I also like Norah and Rosaline, cool and good. Many of our Melrose staff have drinks at the EP &LP rooftop bar.
What’s Next for you and the brand?
I’m at a point now where I’m very comfortable and I’m not going to take more bold moves. There is a point in life where you weight work and time and I love what I do but it’s time for others to help invigorate and take it along, like Max (my son) who is 25-year old.
I’m still traveling but trying to go for myself more these days. I just want to put on a pair of shorts and go to the beach.