Alexis Bittar, the recently crowned CFDA Accessory Designer of the Year, is heading west. The charming jeweler with the Lucite bent already has three Manhattan locations, but this month, he opens three more in California—one in San Francisco and two in Los Angeles. In between finalizing his Resort lookbook, manipulating new mohair knits, and putting the finishing touches on his fashion week collaboration, Bittar met with Style.com to talk L.A., elk heads, 80-year-olds, and what’s coming next.

—Alexis Brunswick

 
You’re about to have a strong presence in Los Angeles. Why L.A.? Why now?
When we looked at our business, were growing astronomically for the last, I want to say, five years—we’ve just been growing and growing and growing. And then when we looked at the country, and we looked at the West Coast. We were like, wait a minute, we have nothing really strong out there. And I think one of the things that helped my business in New York is creating a space that had my own environment and aesthetic. The other thing that was appealing on a business level is that it felt like if you were in a place of strength right now, this would be a time to expand. The economy is actually getting better and you can get a good rent at a time when it won’t be like this forever.

Do you expect the sales to be different in L.A. versus New York?
I’ve built the business on a ready-to-wear model. What will be interesting to see is how, between my three lines (Elements, Miss Havisham, and Lucite), what sells more. There are definitely subtle differences in what the consumer is buying right now between my Bleecker, Madison, and Soho stores [in New York].

How do you feel about being in your own store versus in your retail partners?
This way, you get to display it however you want. If you want to have a two-headed elk, you can have one. That was the most appealing, to be able to have a brand presence that really depicted the way that I see the line. And for our two L.A. stores, I just felt like there is such a huge world between Abbot Kinney (the store’s Venice location) and West Third (the store’s West Hollywood location), that why not have two distinct spaces?

The inevitable question: What are your plans for fashion week?
I’m working with Jason Wu. We designed a capsule collection of jewelry for his show. It will probably sell in our stores. I’d say it’s closest to the Miss Havisham line. It’s very clean, minimalistic, and has a seventies kind of feel to it.

What’s next for your line?
We’ve definitely been talking about doing fine jewelry for a while, and I think that is the most immediate thing that I want to get done. In terms of other extensions, like bags and shoes, it’s definitely something we want to get our hands into. But I want to make sure I’m with the right partner…the possibilities are limitless, but I just really want to make sure I’m with the right partners.

How does your line relate to all the other accessory lines out there?
We’re designing for a 20-year-old and an 80-year old—not just a size 2. There’s a general feeling that the line’s artistic, but that you also have to have balls to wear it. Don’t get me wrong, I love dressing models and I love the fantasy of fashion. But there’s a reality of fashion, too. I think moderate luxury is a comfortable space for us. But we’re still innovative and age-diverse.

Alexis Bittar opens September 15 at 8383 West Third St. and 1612 Abbot Kinney Blvd., L.A., www.alexisbittar.com.

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