Throw Out Your Jeans—At Classy Camp Beverly Hills the Motto Is: No Sweat
Welcome to Camp Beverly Hills. Your counselors are Jeff Stein, Howard Himelstein and John Lasker. Your bunkmates: Jane Fonda, the Rolling Stones and Donna Summer. Your camp uniform: the latest in splashy designer sweatpants and tops. Activity of the day: trying them on.
Camp Beverly Hills is just a scruple's throw from tony Rodeo Drive. Actually, it's a boutique stocked with the dernier cri in sweatsuit chic. "Sweat clothes are no longer for cleaning out the attic," explains Himelstein, 32, who started the store almost three years ago with fellow New Yorkers Stein, 36, and Lasker, 29. Spurred by the national fitness mania, sweatsuit dressing is booming coast to coast. "It's the new uniform," declares Himelstein. "Sweatsuits in the 1980s will replace the jeans and T-shirts of the 1970s."
Maybe. In the meantime, Fonda (whose exercise studio, Workout, is only a few miles away), Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Dustin Hoffman, Raquel Welch, Paul Newman, Ali MacGraw and Shirley MacLaine rummage through the bins of brightly colored sweats, many stamped with Camp Beverly Hills' palm-fringed insignia. When Rudolf Nureyev buys the store's pants, he hikes up the waistline for a tight-legged Tartar look, then heads out to a party or the theater. "Their clothes are so comfortable," says Barbra Streisand, who owns several dozen shirts, "I even sleep in them."
The new fashion has its detractors. "It's kind of dreary," observes designer Bob Mackie. "Sweatsuits are fine for sweating in, but you have to draw the line somewhere."
Still, the camp offers a dizzying variety of choices by at least a half-dozen manufacturers. They range from rhinestone-encrusted jumbo sweatshirts ($28) to velour, terry and patterned sweats at around $15 in such nonathletic colors as aquamarine, flamingo pink, periwinkle and martini olive. For the traditionalist, there are Fruit of the Loom sweatshirts at $13. The store also does a thriving mail-order business and recently launched an outpost at Macy's in New York City, with more openings in five cities planned for 1981. This year's gross, the partners confidently predict, will top $1 million.
Just three years back Himelstein, Stein and Lasker were lounging around Stein's swimming pool with nothing to do. Recalls Himelstein: "It was sort of like a Mickey Rooney movie: 'Hey, let's all get together and open a store!' We were city guys, and although Southern California is very pretty, we agreed that Beverly Hills really needed funk."
Stein, the camp's business and advertising expert, graduated from Brooklyn Law School in 1967. In 1974 he moved to California to work for the business department of Columbia Pictures before becoming an independent film producer. (None of his projects ever made it to the screen.)
Lasker, who became the store's manager, attended New York University and hired on with a Wall Street bond house before moving to California. His pal, Brooklyn-born Himelstein, graduated in 1970 from NYU's film school and worked briefly for producer Otto Preminger. Himelstein is now the store's buyer and designer.
The partners are their own best advertisement. Among them, Himelstein, Stein and Lasker own two dozen sweatsuit outfits. When the occasion calls for it, they do not hesitate to don formal attire: sweatsuits, sneakers—and black bow ties.
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