Fiorucci in Beverly Hills

Alison Martino Hollywood

Photo: LA Times 1980. (Vintage Los Angeles collection)

If there’s ONE store from my youth that still stands out in my nostalgic brain, it’s gotta be FIORUCCI in Beverly Hills. It was OUT THERE, even by todays standards. I still dream about it because it was so ahead of its time during the late 70s and early 80s. The window displays were full of spandex, leopard prints, Hawaiian style shirts, neon checkered ties and 1950s rockabilly prints – all imported from Italy. It was more rock n roll than MTV (it was actually more NIGHT FLIGHT). I Loved and wore my FIORUCCI pants till I could not patch them up any more. Those fine corduroy pants were painted on me, and I loooovvvved them! I wore them with a blue satin baseball hat from CAMP BEVERLY HILLS and a jersey from HEAVEN.

I was 10 years old, and this was my paradise.

Fiorucci postcard, 1978

Fiorucci display window and opening night.
Photos: Gary Wilde

In 1967, FIORUCCI founded the Italian fashion label that bears his name. By the late 1970s, his New York store became famous for the fashions it introduced to the US. A leader in the globalization of fashion, FIORUCCI searched the planet, and created mass trends, such as thongs from Brazil and Afghan coats. The label popularized camouflage prints before creating the designer jean market with the invention of stretch jeans and skin tight denim.

Elio Fiorucci

In 1978, a classmate’s mother of mine brought FIORCCI to Beverly Hills. She was a former Miss Universe pageant winner (Miss Israel) named Ronit Weintraub, and this was her Fantasyland. No wonder her daughter wore the most bitchin’ clothes in school.

Owners of Fiorucci Beverly Hills: Ronit, Camille, Oren, Jack, and Sabrina.
Los Angeles Times Home Magazine, 1980

Debbie Harry and KISS attended the Beverly Hills opening in 1978, and some of us watched the shopping sequence in XANADU being filmed from across the street in late 1979. All the young girls wanted to see Olivia Newton-John, and our moms wanted to see Gene Kelly – so it worked out just fine. There were no props or set designers needed for that scene. It was just a typical day at FIORUCCI in Beverly Hills.

Michael Beck, Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly on Location for ‘Xanadu’ – October 2, 1979 at Fiorucci
Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage

“Xanadu” 1980 – shopping scene at the Fiorucci store Beverly

Scene from Xanadu shot at Fiorucci in 1980.

FIORUCCI occupied the old Beverly Theatre on Beverly Drive. That explains the original Arabian architecture and Art Nouveau nuances throughout the store. Stepping inside felt like a surreal music video. And this was before the launch of MTV.

The Beverly Theatre, 1960, in one of its rarely photographed, short-lived incarnations.
Photo Credit: Marc Wanamaker

The former Beverly Theatre in 1974, just 3 years before Fiorucci took over the theater.

The Beverly Theatre in 1977 (before Fiorucci moved in).

Another Fiorucci view. It’s a photo by David Naylor from his 1981 book “American Picture Palaces: The Architecture of Fantasy.”

Summer 1978: Bebe Buell, the mother of Liv Tyler and Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick attend a Blondie party at Fiorucci in Los Angeles, California.
Photos by Brad Elterman/FilmMagic

FIORUCCI also projected movies on the wall in honor of old Hollywood, and that’s where I watched THAT’S ENTERTAINMENT and METROPOLIS for the first time. In fact, Jack Haley Jr. threw the premiere for That’s Entertainment at the former Beverly Theatre back in 1974. He Invited every MGM legend… as he called it, “More stars than there are in Heaven”.

FIORICCI was also very happening during the roller skating craze. In fact, I myself used to roller skate over to FIORUCCI (with a side ponytail) after school to purchase pop-rocks and white chocolate lollipops in the shape of giant lips. I remember purchasing a FIORUCCI lipstick that looked like a red firecracker with a fuse on the end attached to a compact of sparkly eyeshadow. The punked out staff packaged your purchases in artsy vinyl shopping bags that were revolutionary at the time and have since become major collectors items.

Dancers at the Opening of Fiorucci in BEVERLY HILLS, CA – 1979: Dancers take to the stage in celebration of the 1979 opening of Fiorucci, a chic clothing and fashion accessory store, in Beverly Hills, California.
Photo by George Rose/Getty Images

BEVERLY HILLS, CA – 1979: Fashion models perform in a mock fight during a punk fashion show at Fiorucci clothing store in 1979 Beverly Hills, California.
Photo by George Rose/Getty Images

The music was loud, too. It was all disco and new wave. The size of the empty theatre made the sound so echoey and lush. I had many a wonderful dreamy afternoon there watching people shop for sneaker skates, stretch jeans, t-shirts, pins and sunglasses. I wish I still had my FIORUCCI rain jacket! It was pink and blue with a splattered paint effect faded into the fabric. I also wish I had kept my pair of red woven plastic shoes I received for my birthday, ( I was too young to wear those mile high chunky shoes). But thankfully, I still have a few pins, and some shopping bags etc,. even a sticker that says “FIORUCCI L.A. 2 years 1980′, as well as a few matchbooks with their signature logo.

Photos: Gary Wilde

The photos above are from the promotional display for Blondie’s PARALLEL LINES. When they did the in store record signing, Blondie rolled up Beverly Drive in an Army tank. Much of the FIORUCCI’s cachet was due to its eccentric staff. Klaus Nomi,
drag performer Joey Arias, designer and filmmaker Maripol, and Madonna’s brother Christopher Ciccone all worked for FIORUCCI during its heyday. The store was one of the first places to sell Betsey Johnson’s clothing and exhibit Keith Haring’s artwork. FIORUCCI’s knack for youth-driven, pop-art consumerism also attracted the likes of Andy Warhol, surrounded by a coterie that included Truman Capote and Grace Jones. Warhol even launched Interview magazine with an in-store party at FIORUCCI, and WET Magazine could be purchased in the magazine racks.

Andy Warhol and Brook Shields at Fiorucci

Andy Warhol and Holly Woodlawn at Fiorucci in Beverly Hills
Photo by Ron Galella

Bebe Buell and Joan Jett at a party for Blondie at Fiorucci Beverly Hills

Bebe Buell, Joan Jett and Debbie Harry at a party for Blondie’s new album “Eat to the Beat” at Fiorucci in Beverly Hills, 1979.

“We were all horrified when thirteen-year old model/actress Brooke Shields stuck out her rather large tongue at the photographers at this Blondie party held at Fiorucci in Beverly Hills. This is exactly what the magazine editors wanted: an animated photo of a famous rock star and an international celebrity. The photo was published dozens of times all around the world; and of course, the Japanese went nuts over it.”
Photo and caption by celebrity photographer, Brad Elterman

Ellio Fiorucci definitely changed fashion merchandising and retailing forever. Some of you might have shopped at the NYC location, too, and perhaps some of you may have been seen on the dance floor “dressed to kill” in some of those outrageous fashions I have described.

Sadly, Fiorucci Beverly Hills was short lived, and became an Israeli Bank. But eventually, the historic structure was demolished to make way for the Montage Hotel. This place / building was wonderful for all who used it.

Although, I hear Fiorucci is coming back!

Me in 1987 wearing my beloved Fiorucci shirt.
Of course, I stuck shoulder pads inside it!

One of my old Fiorucci tin canisters

One of my vintage Fiorucci shopping bags

My vintage Fioricci poster from 1981

One of my Fiorucci mathbooks I picked up at the counter.

FIORUCCI was also known for its cutting edge artwork:

Artwork by David Jordan Williams

Doesn’t this post make you want to sing the lyrics to “He’s The Greatest Dancer” by Chic 1978?

“Halston, Gucci, Fiorucci
He looks like a still, that man is dressed to kill”

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Alison Martino is a writer, television producer, and pop culture historian. She founded the Facebook page Vintage Los Angeles in 2010. Alison muses on L.A’s. past and present on Twitter and Instagram.