The city of Calabasas, Calif. is something of an anomaly. Despite being home to countless celebrities — namely the Kardashians, Wests and Jenners, who arguably ignited a celeb migration to the hilly enclave — as well as the inspiration for an entire Yeezy collection and the setting for Dior’s latest Cruise show, it’s a somewhat unremarkable Los Angeles suburb.
Sure, it’s wealthy — the median income was $124,583 in 2010, and it’s likely gone up since — pretty, and rife with gated communities, making it appealing to famous people like Drake and Justin Bieber who want privacy. But unlike, say, Beverly Hills or Brentwood, there aren’t many places for wealthy inhabitants to gather, “see and be seen” and spend their money. Development on this front has been slow: In 1998, Caruso, the company behind The Grove, opened The Commons at Calabasas, an outdoor shopping center whose tenants were always pretty basic. (There’s a movie theater, a Ralph’s, a Lululemon, a Barnes & Noble, Sugarfish and Chico’s.) It functioned as a town center, a place where people of all ages could hang out on a sunny weekend; but still, nothing in Calabasas matched the chicness the city now connotes to those who live outside of it — until now.
Calabasas’s first fashion-forward luxury shopping destination is The Kingdom, a new, multibrand accessories concept located within The Commons. The boutique is the brainchild of fashion-industry veteran Jason Salstein and real estate expert David Lipp. “We put our two hats together and thought, ‘Where can we open a concept like this that is void in the market, that has the affluence, that has the need for women who really don’t want to go over the hill and women who just want to go in their backyard and shop the best brands?'” explains Salstein as he shows me around the 1,400-square-foot store on a recent, 100-degree weekday afternoon.
Meant to resemble someone’s fantasy apartment, The Kingdom is anything but basic with its velvet pink couches, shagreen and chinoiserie-printed wallpaper, mauve carpeting and Carrera-Calcutta marble. It’s decorated with antique mirrors, a carved black Italian marble fireplace, a sputnik Artemisia chandelier, a tiger-print velvet ottoman and artwork by Al Hirschfeld featuring Audrey Hepburn. It’s also filled with “‘wow’ moments for Instagram and people to take a little shoe-fie with,” as Salstein enthusiastically describes it. “We are big on Instagram and social media, so we wanted people who can’t visit the store who are in New York to feel like they are in the store.”
The inventory is equally, if not more, special. Comprising only shoes, handbags and jewelry, the offering is a mix of recognizable runway hits, classic, wearable staples and exclusive items. You’ll find brands like Saint Laurent, Gianvito Rossi, Gucci, Balenciaga, Manolo Blahnik, Loewe, Givenchy, Jimmy Choo, Valentino, Aquazzura, Golden Goose, Alexander Wang, Pierre Hardy, Francesco Russo and Paul Andrew. As we walk through, Salstein routinely points out special and exclusive items: Manolo Blahniks in custom colors and fabrications, $15,000 vintage Hermes bags, a reproduced Balenciaga brooch, a pair of JAR by Joel Arthur Rosenthal earrings. The store will also be stocking those sparkly Saint Laurent Nikki boots from the Fall 2017 runway, he tells me excitedly. They’ll cost around $10,000.
The decision to focus on accessories, and to prioritize a mix of directional pieces with essentials, reflects the Calabasas shopper. “We obviously carry a lot of fashion-forward product but also know that, where we are, a lot of these women are moms… they go to soccer practice and they run around to Pilates and things like that, so we really wanted to have a lot of basics, whether it’s Valentino flats or just your regular Gianvito slides,” says Salstein. Though I’m no Calabasas expert, I feel comfortable asserting that you’re much more likely to see one if its residents in athleisure than a cocktail dress, but just because a woman wants to be comfortable doesn’t mean she isn’t looking to invest in something nice. “A lot of people out here, they’re just a jeans-and-a-T-shirt kinda girl and they really want to focus on their bag or their shoe.”
The location is also strategic. “The valley, Calabasas, Westlake Village have some of the highest net worths in the country; [there are] very good schools and it’s 20 minutes from Malibu, close enough to LA to get to work but far enough away that you feel like you’re in a suburb,” explains Lipp, the real estate expert. There’s also Caruso’s atypical success in an exceptionally challenging retail landscape — especially for malls. “There’s a waiting list of people who would love to be in here,” notes Lipp. “It’s a very healthy market.” He points to the on-site security and copious free parking as big draws as well. The area is also an easy stopping point for Los Angelenos on their way to Santa Barbara for the weekend.
Salstein, who describes the Commons as the “epicenter” of Calabasas, says the clientele is a mix of locals and tourists. Might a certain reality TV-famous family be responsible for an uptick in tourism (in what is literally just a suburb, you guys)? “I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t [Kardashian-related],” says Salstein. “Calabasas is becoming more and more on the map, not only because of the Kardashians but because of Adidas, the Calabasas line, all the celebrities who are moving into [gated community] Hidden Hills. They feel like it’s safe; people look at them like regular people.”
In other words, it’s precisely because Calabasas isn’t Beverly Hills that celebrities are drawn to it, and Lipp doesn’t think the area will change anytime soon — whether Kanye West starts designing school uniforms or not. “There’s not much more that’s going to happen here in the near future, maybe a hotel if it gets approved,” he says. “It’s a slow-moving community because people want it that way — just like in Malibu. Rarely are things getting built. This is going to be downtown Calabasas forever.”
But if anything, the city’s refusal to evolve will continue to make The Kingdom stand out. Salstein wouldn’t name names, but says a number of VIPs, or their personal shoppers, have already come in to pull things; and that, while he wants to store to feel democratic accessible, they do have a back entrance and will lock the doors for private shopping if needed. Then, shoppers can pop over to Lululemon to purchase an outfit to wear with their Gucci slides or Balenciaga tote.
Just like the new Yeezy product that bears the city’s name, it seems to be that discreet-yet-casual, high/low balance that Calabasas is all about.
By Dhani Mau