DESIGNER Christian Audigier was a few hours from opening his first nightclub last week, a swanky spread that looks out at the Las Vegas Strip from Treasure Island, but he was already moving past all that. He's got loftier plans.
Much loftier. An airline, in fact.
"It's going to be nice, comfortable, with nice waitresses and nice food, a cool drink and a nice movie," Audigier says, igniting one of three cigarettes laid out neatly for him by an assistant along with a yellow lighter. "I'm talking to different people. I'm not ready yet, but I'm going to do that."
Uh, OK. It's hard to comprehend how a fashion impresario -- even one responsible for the stunningly successful Von Dutch and Ed Hardy lines -- could pull off such an endeavor. Then again, as he explained this, he was sitting on the terrace of his eponymous nightclub. He also has a development deal to build a 36-story hotel with his name on it in Dubai.
So, really, who's to doubt the man at the center of one of the most meteoric rises in fashion history, a designer unknown to Americans a decade ago but who in May was regaled at his 50th birthday by the likes of clients Snoop Dogg, Fergie and Macy Gray? Michael Jackson showed up unexpectedly, declared Audigier the new King of Fashion and is now in talks for a Jackson-branded Audigier line.
"It's gonna be the new look of Michael, of course," Audigier says. "He's preparing a new album and a new tour, and I'm working on a collection to celebrate all the icons of rock, pop and funk. This is what I want to do in my collection for him."
After that, he says, clothing lines involving Madonna and Britney Spears may follow. In fact, the marriage between his clothes -- T-shirts emblazoned with elaborate and often Goth-inspired designs, going for more than $250 -- and the rock 'n' roll culture fits neatly into Audigier's earliest ambitions. He says as a teen he wanted to be Mick Jagger, and now, "Mick Jagger is wearing my clothes."
The nightclub makes Audigier the first designer to delve into the Vegas night life scene as an entrepreneur. He's partnered with Pure Management Group for a berth with an outdoor terrace facing Treasure Island's lagoon, where a pirate show takes place every 90 minutes. Inside, the space is tricked out with rhinestone-encrusted skulls and two 1,000-gallon tanks of 30 jellyfish each. The aim, he says, is "to instill a fashionable night life."
"When you're going into a club, you want to see sparkling and glitter and rhinestones," he says. "This nightclub opening is a big achievement for me, because having a nightclub in Vegas is not something I was dreaming in my life."
As Audigier moved about the place, two cameramen and a photographer tracked his every move, as they have for six years for a planned documentary he hopes to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in May.
"This is really a success story, an American dream," says Audigier, who arrived unemployed in the U.S. in 2001. This year, his company is expected to gross $200 million in sales, and he owns homes in L.A., Miami, Paris and Brazil.
"I came to Los Angeles, and it was a struggle in the beginning. To put your mark on a line was very difficult, so I needed to do my own. Now look at where I am. It is amazing."
Steve Friess co-hosts the podcast "The Strip" at TheStripPodcast.com.
CHRISTIAN AUDIGIER: THE NIGHTCLUB WHERE: Treasure Island Hotel-Casino, 3300 Las Vegas Blvd. S., Las Vegas WHEN: Opens 10 p.m. Thursdays-Sundays PRICE: Cover charge is $30 for men, $20 for women INFO: (702) 894-7111, treasureisland.com