Fred Hayman helped transform Rodeo Drive into a luxury shopping destination.
LOS ANGELES — Fred Hayman, whose Giorgio Boutique in Beverly Hills, with its lush fashions and celebrity clientele inspired a steamy novel, a heady perfume and an image of opulence that helped turn Rodeo Drive from a local shopping street into an international symbol of style, died early Thursday at his Malibu home, publicist Katy Sweet said. He was 90.
Mr. Hayman was a founder of the Rodeo Drive Committee that courted many of the luxury European retailers whose boutiques now line the street.
In the city he helped make famous, Mr. Hayman was known as “Mr. Rodeo Drive.” The accolades were embedded in 2008, when the name of the street beside his former shop was changed from Dayton to Fred Hayman Way.
By then the brand name “Giorgio, Beverly Hills” had circled the globe in a perfume bottle. He launched Giorgio perfume in 1981, at $150 an ounce, with his then-wife and business partner, Gale. The scent strip, a perfume-drenched card he used to market his product, quickly became a standard advertising tool in the fragrance business.
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His reputation as a maverick began with a modest investment. He and two partners bought the original Giorgio Boutique in 1961, when the shop was known for its Italian fashion.
“It was a nothing store, really,” he later recalled. At the time, Mr. Hayman was the banquet-operations manager for the Beverly Hilton Hotel with no plans to change careers.
The first year he owned Giorgio, the business nearly collapsed.
“I knew nothing about retailing, but bankruptcy is a sign of failure and I would never admit to failure,” he said in a 1981 interview with the Los Angeles Times.
He bought out his partners, moved out the racks of traditional Italian clothing and brought in a new look. Soon the Giorgio label conjured sequins, cashmere and black lace.
Mr. Hayman’s ease with hospitality and his hotelier’s talents translated to a pool table, a cocktail bar and a newspaper rack for the main showroom, to keep men busy while their wives or girlfriends shopped. The drinks were on the house.
The store carried menswear, too, but it never captured the same attention. The taste reflected Mr. Hayman’s personal wardrobe of double-breasted pinstripe suits, navy blue blazers, colored shirts with white collars and silk handkerchiefs for jacket pockets.
The “hotel man,” as he called himself in his early years as a retailer, said he didn’t know much about fashion but he knew a lot about first-class service. He hired a doorman for the store, wrote thank-you notes to customers and delivered purchases in a Rolls-Royce.
“It was an entirely new way of marketing,” Mr. Hayman said in a 1998 interview with the Times. “It was all about show biz.”
He stoked the store’s Hollywood aura with an endless supply of celebrity name dropping. Asked about his clientele, he might mention Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Rivers and Lynda Carter in the same breath. Television personality Merv Griffin wore Giorgio menswear on his show.
“Fred Hayman was a visionary who saw no boundaries,” said Patty Fox, a former fashion director for Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills who worked with him in the 1990s. “To Fred, anything was possible. He expected success.”
The store captured international attention when novelist Judith Krantz used it as a setting for “Scruples,” her 1978 novel about shopping, sex and social climbing in Beverly Hills. The book was a No. 1 one best-seller.
Giorgio became a tourist attraction in the 1980s, and Mr. Hayman stocked T-shirts and tote bags with the store logo blazing. The yellow and white striped awnings above the store windows were stolen off their frames.
His critics groused that the T-shirts and totes cheapened the image of the store and the street. Admirers said the store’s popularity brought new business to Beverly Hills.
“Fred had an uncanny knack for trusting his instincts no matter what people said,” Linda LoRe, a former vice president of sales management at Giorgio, said in a 2008 interview. “Walt Disney had it, Bill Gates had it, Fred had it.”
In the late 1980s, when Mr. Hayman had become the unofficial grand master of Beverly Hills retailing, he became fashion coordinator for the Academy Awards. The goal was “to return glamour to the Academy Awards show and make the public interested in what the stars were wearing,” said Fox, who was Hayman’s deputy fashion coordinator for the project in the early 1990s.
He hosted a fashion show for Oscar winners and presenters, and asked top European designers to lend clothes for the event. Many of them agreed.
“The designers didn’t have the connections. They didn’t know how to get to the stars on their own,” Fox said.
Mr. Hayman opened the door for many of them.
Born May 29, 1925, in St. Gallen, Switzerland, Mr. Hayman left Europe with his parents for the U.S. in the early 1940s to escape the Nazi regime. As a teenager living in New York City, he found a job working in the kitchen of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. By his mid-20s he had been promoted to the hotel’s banquet manager. At 29, he moved to Los Angeles to oversee food and beverage services at the Beverly Hilton.
His visions of glamour and luxury for Rodeo Drive had little to do with reality in the early 1960s. The street was home to small boutiques, most locally owned, a gas station and the Brown Derby restaurant at the corner of Wilshire Boulevard.
He and other retailers launched the Rodeo Drive Committee in 1972 to encourage luxury fashion and accessory businesses to join them. By 1990, the street was filling up with designer boutiques, Giorgio Armani, Chanel and Gucci among them.
Mr. Hayman and his wife, Gale, divorced in 1983. Four years later, they sold Giorgio perfume, and the name, to Avon for $165 million. Mr. Hayman kept the store but changed the name to Fred Hayman Beverly Hills. He introduced several more fragrances, including “273,” after the street address of his boutique.
In 1998, he closed the shop, put a “gone fishin’” sign on the door and leased the building, which he owned, to Louis Vuitton leather goods.
He is survived by his wife, Betty; sons, Charles and Robert; daughter, Nicole; and 10 grandchildren.