Posted Thursday, April 14 – 6:45 PM
By The Courier Staff
Fashion and fragrance pioneer Fred Hayman, who made his Giorgio Beverly Hills fragrance and Rodeo Drive boutique an international crossroads of style and celebrity, died yesterday in his Malibu home after a long illness. He was 90.
Known affectionately as the “Godfather of Rodeo Drive,” his multi-decade stewardship of the Rodeo Drive Committee transformed the once-sleepy street into one of the world’s most glamorous shopping destinations, and fixed international attention on Los Angeles style.
Born in 1925 in the Swiss town of St. Gallen, he emigrated in the early 40s with his family to New York City, where he got a job at 16 years old as an apprentice chef at the Waldorf-Astoria.
In 1954, Conrad Hilton brought Hayman to Los Angeles to head the banquet facilities at The Beverly Hilton. With his signature dapper style, knowledge of cuisine and personalized service, Hayman established the hotel as a center for important political, celebrity and society events.
In 1961, Hayman became a silent partner in Giorgio Beverly Hills, the first luxury boutique on a heretofore sleepy street called Rodeo Drive and one that would change his life and the world of retailing. His sales and marketing skills made it a big success, attracting a “who’s who” regular clientele – i.e. Princess Grace, Natalie Wood, Elizabeth Taylor, Ronald and Nancy Reagan, Diana Ross, Charlton Heston, and so many others.
In quick succession, he bought out his retail partners, left the Hilton, became general manager of the Ambassador Hotel and met Gale Gardner, who would become his third wife and partner in creating a fashion and fragrance empire. Giorgio Beverly Hills, their unorthodox, clubby boutique with the signature, striped yellow and white awnings, became an international landmark at the corner of Rodeo Drive and Dayton Way.
He created a signature fragrance called Giorgio in 1981 which six years later was sold to Avon for $165 million. Following the sale, the boutique’s name was changed to Fred Hayman Beverly Hills. The location is currently a branch of Louis Vuitton. In a scenario unusual for the time, Hayman created an environment that mixed entertainment, hospitality and lifestyle.
Customers were pampered with a fully stocked bar, espresso machine, pool table and pub. A vintage Rolls-Royce chauffeured clients to the store in glamorous style. The celebrities he had attentively entertained at the Hilton followed him to his Rodeo Drive boutique, where they discovered fashion designers such as Halston, Diane Von Furstenberg, Thea Porter and Zandra Rhodes.
Hayman instinctively understood the potent mix of celebrity and style, and matched the famous with couture, elevating both. The ultimate early adopter, Hayman marshalled new sales techniques to expand his brand. In 1981, he launched Giorgio Beverly Hills, a scent that changed the perfume industry with its powerful aroma and direct-mail scented strips.
The fragrance, initially available only at the boutique or through a then-innovative toll-free telephone number, became an international sensation, breaking sales records. In May 1987, Hayman sold the Giorgio Beverly Hills fragrances and name to Avon for $165 million, but retained his famous store at 273 Rodeo Drive, rechristening it as Fred Hayman Beverly Hills.
He launched four successful fragrances under the new banner, including 273 for Women. Hayman also laid the groundwork for today’s red carpet fashion obsessions. For 11 years beginning in 1989, Hayman served as fashion coordinator for the Academy Awards, a role that helped return glamour–and audience interest–to the Oscar ceremony, while launching the institution of celebrity dressing.
In 1994, he sold the marketing rights to his suite of fragrances to Florida-based Parlux. That year, Hayman entered the burgeoning world of high-tech commerce with a leathergoods and fragrance collection he sold on the Home Shopping Network.
In 1997, after 35 years at his landmark location on Rodeo Drive, Hayman announced that he would lease the property to Louis Vuitton.
In 2011, Hayman earned a star on the Rodeo Drive Walk of Style. The Beverly Hills street, Fred Hayman Place, was named in his honor.
He is survived by his wife, Betty, and sons, Charles and Robert, and daughter Nicole, and 10 grandchildren.
A memorial is being planned. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and Homes for Our Troops California.