Fred Segal, Famed L.A. Retailer, Dies

Fred Segal, who’s name is well known from the blue and white lettered sign of the famous Los Angeles store he founded, died on Friday. He was 87.

The cause was complications from a stroke, according to a representative of the brand. He is survived by a large family, including his wife, five children, ten grandchildren and even two great-grandchildren.

“To the very end, he inspired us to never give up. He will be forever loved and celebrated,” a statement from the family reads. “He was a true artist who dedicated his life to evolving as a human being in every aspect. He challenged us to expand our minds and our hearts, to go deeper and to do better. He was an innovator, a forward thinker, a rule breaker, a mentor to so many, such a lover of life and a humanitarian. Anyone who knew him, felt his powerful energy. He worked his whole life to have self love and to teach all of us to love one another.”

Born in 1933, Segal in 1961 opened his eponymous store in L.A.’s West Hollywood, in a 300 square foot space with an inventory of almost entirely denim. The jeans sold for the then unheard of price of $19.95, making him the first to to market premium denim. As the store grew in popularity, so did the size and Segal eventually started asking employees to manage their own spaces inside the store as it expanded, leading him to pioneer the “shop-in-shop” style of retail.

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The store was popular with locals and a favorite of celebrities, including George Harrison and Diana Ross, with its focus on trendy fashion, like hip-huggers, mandarin collars and jumpsuits. It remained a celebrity stop throughout the 2000s, when paparazzi would wait outside to catch celebrities of the moment.

Segal worked in apparel most of his life. After graduating from the University of California, Los Angeles, he worked at now-defunct HIS Sportswear and rose to be a sales manager. But by the early 1960s, he had his own ideas, like a fashion-driven jeans line that would pull more than the $3 going rate for a pair at the time.

“I called my boss who was in New York,” Segal told WWD in an earlier interview. “It’s midnight there and he got so mad, he said, ‘Go do it yourself.’ So I did.”

Segal and his family maintained ownership of the brand’s intellectual property until 2012, when he sold the licensing rights and all intellectual property to Sandow Media. But the physical store on Melrose Ave. that started it all was sold in 2000 to Bud Brown, Segal’s longtime insurance broker. When Fred Segal in 2017 moved from the Melrose location to a new flagship on Sunset Blvd., the ownership of the physical store and the classic Fred Segal signage outside caused a protracted legal fight over it. It was only last summer that the signage was removed.

Although Sandow said upon its purchase of the Fred Segal IP that it was making a long-term commitment to the brand, it did not last. Licensing company Global Icons took over ownership of the brand in 2019. The company has since closed several international Fred Segal locations, but is set to open a new flagship in Las Vegas.

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