For Haberdashery with Hype, There's Nobody Like Bijan Pakzad, Whose Pricey Clothes Will Take You to the Cleaners
Buzz off, Brooks Brothers. Get lost, Gucci. So long, Savile Row. When it comes to adorning the human male, the latest, the ultimate is Bijan, a Beverly Hills and Manhattan haberdashery that reeks of chic and shrieks of conspicuous overconsumption.
The shops are named for, run by and partly owned by Bijan Pakzad, 43, a wiry, wily Iranian. The Beverly Hills outlet is nestled among the other glittering boutiques on Rodeo Drive. The Manhattan store, which opened a month ago, is on Fifth Avenue on a site lately occupied by Gucci. Bijan operates on the theory that the more his merchandise costs, the more the big spenders will clamor for it. In addition, his door is closed to the unwashed public: The uniformed doorman will unlock it only for those who have appointments. And unless the patrons are prepared to lay down vast sums for his merchandise, Bijan isn't interested in their trade. "If someone comes in to buy a tie," he has said, "I don't consider him a customer." His silk neckties begin at $110.
Some potential customers might be put off by such snobbery, but it seems to pay off. Bijan won't disclose his annual profits but says the combined sales volume of his retail operation and product lines produced a $12 million to $13 million gross in 1983.
A sampling of his price list shows that Bijan does not rhyme with bargain. Egyptian cotton shirts retail for $350, alligator shoes for $1,800, mink-lined silk raincoats for $9,000 to $14,000, and suits start at $1,500. One customer special-ordered an $11,500 suit featuring 24-karat gold pinstripes. Bijan will add bulletproofing to his suits at no extra charge.
And then there are the accessories, or should we say, "excessories." The most expensive item is his $95,000, king-size chinchilla bedspread. Cheaper versions come in fox (starting at $37,000) and mink ($50,000). And there is the much-talked-about gun "for people who don't like guns." Bijan had it made up for a European king who was bored with "giving my friends Rolls-Royces." It is a .38 caliber Colt revolver with a cylinder of 24-karat gold inlay. The revolver is housed in a mink pouch and a Baccarat crystal case. It goes for $10,000 and fires real bullets.
And where does all this exotica come from? Bijan leases time at several European factories that manufacture his clothes. His suits, for example, are crafted at the D'Avenza factory in Carrara, Italy (a plant in which Bijan has a small interest). Though the factory sells to many other designers, Bijan's clothing is made to his own specifications. Twice a year Bijan or his agent comes to D'Avenza's Florence showroom to look over the clothes. Unlike Gucci and other D'Avenza clients who buy from the house collection, Bijan brings his own labels to sew into the garments produced for him. "I sell quality," boasts Bijan. "The quality of my stuff is 1,000 percent, not 100 percent good."
Bijan is reluctant to name his clientele, but it reportedly includes King Hussein, Roger Moore, Julio Iglesias and Jack Nicholson. Saudi Arabian billionaire Adnan Khashoggi blew more than $140,000 in a single shopping spree in 1982. The biggest single sale amounted to $220,000, paid by the head of a helicopter-manufacturing company, for a mink bedspread and 60 suits with accessories.
Bijan, whose father was a wealthy steel manufacturer (now retired) in pre-Khomeini Tehran, claims that he studied engineering in West Germany but hated it and took up designing clothes instead, beginning at a Tehran boutique owned by his family. He left Iran in 1959 or 1967 (Bijan has used both dates) to pursue his career in Europe and moved to California in 1971. Five years later he and Daryoush Mahboubi-Fardi, a fellow Iranian and nearly silent partner, opened the Beverly Hills boutique. "He's a talented artist," says Mahboubi. "He makes love to his business—He thinks, breathes, feels and touches his creations."
Bijan's private life is as extravagant as his shops. He lives with his daughter, Daniela, 22, a USC student, in a Bel Air, Calif. home that he says is worth $5 million (a real estate agent estimates $3 million tops), and ticks off the cars in his driveway: two Rolls-Royces, an As-ton-Martin, a Mercedes, a BMW. In Manhattan, he beds down in a Fifth Avenue penthouse. "I love clothes, women and cars, in that order," he says, admitting the pursuit of the first two led to his divorce from Daniela's mother, Sigi.
Bijan has an ego as big as the Ritz. "America made me a millionaire, support me so beautifully," he says in his idiosyncratic syntax, "but it's not only America. Forgive me if I say it was me that came to America. It was me that thought, 'If I introduce myself that way, the money will be there, and the recognization.' That was me that decided to make 'by appointment' or the gold gun or cosmetics for men and have the quality to be 1,000 percent. It was me that smelled America."
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