If you’ve lived in Southern California through even a single holiday shopping season, you’ve likely heard some version of the South Coast Plaza origin story. It goes something like this: The Segerstroms, led by prescient patriarch Henry Segerstrom, convert the family’s Costa Mesa lima bean fields into a mall that officially opens with 70 stores in 1967, just one year before the 405 Freeway opened nearby.
Over the next half-century, that family-owned mall grows in size, reputation and foot traffic to become a 2.8-million-square-foot, luxury-retail-focused development (don’t call it a mall any longer, thank you) attracting more than 22 million annual visitors who, according to South Coast Plaza partner (and Henry’s son) Anton Segerstrom, are on track to spend close to $2 billion in 2017 at its 250-plus tenants, many of which are more familiar to a Paris Fashion Week schedule than a shopping center directory.
But even if you’re familiar with the “lima beans-to-luxury” story, you may not realize just how important this mix of high-end, fashion-focused tenants — some opening on the West Coast for the first time there — has been to the center’s success.
So to acknowledge the center’s 50th anniversary — and in recognition of fashion’s crucial role in shaping South Coast Plaza over the past five decades — we’ve assembled a list of 50 fashionable firsts.
On March 15, the Segerstrom family cut the ribbon to officially open South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa. Among the initial 70 tenants are Lane Bryant, Thom McAn, Joyce Shoe Tree, Zelig’s Casual Fashions and the Wet Seal.
The opening salvo in the center’s shift toward luxury is fired with the opening of the André Courrèges boutique. Anton Segerstrom calls this “the great leap forward” for the luxury branding of South Coast Plaza and explains that it was at the urging of his father.
A Los Angeles Times story reports that fashion designer Halston jetted in from New York with six models in August to “personally open the doors of his first boutique west of Chicago” at South Coast Plaza.
Seattle-based Nordstrom opens its first store outside the Pacific Northwest. “It wasn’t in Los Angeles or San Francisco but at South Coast Plaza,” Anton Segerstrom says during a recent interview with The Times. “So that was a big tipping point [in terms of an] endorsement.”
Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche opens its first Southern California boutique.
For the Record, May 16, 4:21 p.m.: The Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche boutique at South Coast Plaza was the first in Orange County, not in Southern California.
Gucci opens its first Orange County (and third Southern California) boutique in December, just weeks after opening door No. 2 in Palm Springs. (Gucci recently renovated its South Coast Plaza location.)
Leather accessories maker Coach opens the doors of its first Southern California boutique in October, part of a $100-million, 685,000-square-foot expansion of the shopping center.
Louis Vuitton, which already has California boutiques in Beverly Hills, Palm Springs and San Francisco, makes the move into Orange County with a 1,300-square-foot store.
The Times reports that the center does $525 million in business in 1986 and “this year expects to surpass $700 million,” and estimates the number of visitors to be 20,000 a day.
Tiffany & Co., which has California boutiques at the Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills and in San Francisco, opens a 9,500-square-foot boutique, appropriately enough, in South Coast Plaza’s Jewel Court.
London-based Burberry, which has 13 U.S. boutiques (including one in San Francisco), makes its SoCal debut in September at the Costa Mesa shopping center.
On Feb. 24, fashion-forward department store Barneys New York opens a 7,800-square-foot location, marking its first foray into California.
French luxury label Chanel, which already has California boutiques in Beverly Hills and San Francisco, opens at South Coast Plaza. The Times notes, “The South Coast store will be only the second Chanel boutique located in a mall. The other mall store is at the plush Ala Moana shopping center in Honolulu.” The Sept. 9, 1990, grand opening gala includes a showing of the label’s fall/winter 1990 collection.
Max Mara opens its first boutique in Southern California, while Prada opens its first in the O.C.
In April, maker of super-luxe writing instruments Montblanc opens its first Southern California store at South Coast Plaza.
Hermès, the luxury label with the signature orange box, opens its first Orange County boutique in August.
Italian leather-goods maker Tod’s opens its first Orange County boutique at the shopping center in August.
In December, Swiss luxury watch and jewelry brand Chopard makes its SoCal debut.
Macy’s opens its first Home concept store — where merchandise is grouped by household room — at South Coast Plaza.
The first DKNY boutique in Southern California opens its doors.
South Coast Plaza turns 35 with annual sales at the center reported to surpass $1 billion.
Just three years after opening the doors of its first stand-alone store on Madison Avenue in New York, the David Yurman jewelry brand opens its second door at South Coast Plaza.
Roberto Cavalli opens his first SoCal boutique at South Coast Plaza.
Designer Tadashi Shoji picks South Coast Plaza as the home of his first flagship boutique, which opens in March.
Spanish fast-fashion label Zara makes its U.S. West Coast debut with a 10,000-square-foot store at South Coast Plaza.
Chloé, the French fashion label with a single U.S. boutique in New York, picks the Orange County shopping center as the place to open its second stateside store.
Tory Burch opens a 2,043-square-foot store, the label’s second SoCal boutique and first in Orange County, and the first West Coast CH Carolina Herrera boutique (which sells the designer’s diffusion line) opens.
Bespoke shoe brand John Lobb picks South Coast Plaza as the home of its second U.S. ready-to-wear boutique, which bows in September.
South Coast Plaza celebrates its 40th anniversary and reports annual sales approaching $1.5 billion and a yearly visitor count of 22 million.
In April, one of the best-known names in status watches — Rolex — opens its first stand-alone flagship store in the country, a 2,300-square-foot boutique at South Coast Plaza.
French fashion house
Paris-based luxury accessories brand Longchamp opens its first Southern California stand-alone store, bringing the grand total in the Golden State to two.
Roger Vivier, a French luxury shoe brand with boutiques in New York and Bal Harbour, Fla., chooses South Coast Plaza for door No. 3.
South Coast Plaza becomes the first shopping center in the U.S. to accept China’s Union Pay card. “That was as a result of our director of international tourism Werner Escher, who traveled quite a bit to China,” says Anton Segerstrom.
Lanvin opens its first Orange County boutique, and Berluti opens its first store in Southern California at South Coast Plaza.
Japanese fast-fashion brand Uniqlo establishes a SoCal beachhead with a store at the Costa Mesa luxury shopping center, followed in quick succession by three other area stores.
German high-end watch maker A. Lange & Söhne makes its West Coast brick-and-mortar debut when its fourth U.S. boutique opens at South Coast Plaza.
Orange County’s first Dolce & Gabbana boutique bows in May.
Guo Pei, the Chinese fashion designer responsible for Rihanna’s canary yellow, meme-spawning 2015 Met Gala gown, has her work showcased on the West Coast for the first time when four of her elaborate, one-of-a-kind dresses are displayed at South Coast Plaza Oct. 1-4 to celebrate her collaboration with MAC Cosmetics.
H&M-owned fashion brand Cos opens its first Orange County boutique.
Massimo Dutti makes its West Coast brick-and-mortar debut with an 8,891-square-foot South Coast Plaza store.
In April, the Paris-based Anne Fontaine label stages its first comprehensive runway show on the West Coast with a spring/summer 2016 presentation in the shopping center’s Jewel Court.
The Webster, a luxury multi-brand boutique with a Miami Beach flagship and two other stand-alone stores, opens a 4,000-square-foot boutique (its first one west of Houston) here.
In June, Louis Vuitton opens its first stand-alone men’s boutique at South Coast Plaza.
In October, another H&M label, & Other Stories, opens its first Southern California store at South Coast Plaza — next door to Cos.
[T]here is no better place to start in the U.S., so it was kind of a no-brainer for us to start the Weekend [Max Mara] project there.”
— Cristian Notari, chief executive, Max Mara USA
Weekend Max Mara, which has 190 stand-alone stores worldwide — but not a single one in North America — opens a 1,500-square-foot boutique.
“South Coast Plaza is one of the most important shopping centers in the U.S. as far as performance, revenue per square foot, brand mix and name recognition,” Max Mara USA’s Chief Executive Cristian Notari says. “At the end of the day, not only from an economical and business point of view but from a PR perspective, there is no better place to start in the U.S., so it was kind of a no-brainer for us to start the Weekend [Max Mara] project there.”
In December, Louis Vuitton picks South Coast Plaza as the place to put its only perfume pop-up shop in the Americas. It’s open through July 1, 2017.
In February, the first
In April, second-generation Italian shoe designer Gianvito Rossi, son of Sergio Rossi, opens his third U.S. store — and first West Coast boutique — at South Coast Plaza.
Florence, Italy-based women’s footwear brand Aquazzura is set to open its fourth U.S store — and first California boutique — later this month.
Stella McCartney’s first Orange County boutique is currently on track to open in mid-June.
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