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Fred Segal, the namesake owner behind the popular high end retail stores in Los Angeles, died on Thurs., Feb. 27 at the age of 87 due to complications from a stroke. Best known for celebrating California cool and dressing countless celebrities from Bob Dylan to Farah Fawcett, the entrepreneur’s red, white and blue ivy-swathed retail spaces became more than shopping destinations, they were hot spots, places to see and be seen, even for those who couldn’t necessarily afford all of their wares.
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You could always spot a familiar famous face inside his West Hollywood, Melrose and Santa Monica stores, browsing the ample blue jeans selection, dubbed and coined the “jeans bar.” Along with his nephew Ron Herman, Segal’s style sense and innovative business model (he offered different specialized boutiques inside the store, creating a multi-faceted experience) had an indelible influence on L.A. and beyond. And though the Melrose store now bears Herman’s name and the S.M. store shuttered a few years ago, that hasn’t changed.
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(Via Arlt’s Instagram)

Emmy Award nominated makeup artist Gregory Arlt is one such L.A. native influenced by the style legend. Director of Makeup Artistry for MAC Cosmetics he’s been making up faces for over 25 years, beginning with his first job in beauty at Segal’s in 1989. 
Today Arlt works regularly with the likes of Gwen Stefani, Dita Von Teese, Victoria Beckham, Katy Perry, Cher, and many more. He is currently working on his first beauty book titled “Beauty Exorcist” with renowned photographer Steve Erle.

Here, he shares how Segal’s vision in the fashion, beauty and retail realms helped him get his start.

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The entire reason I am where I am today was born at Fred Segal in Santa Monica, right on the corner of 5th and Broadway. In 1989, my nineteen year old self walked into the fragrance, makeup, skin care, and bath department in search of a job with ZERO experience -other than a brief stint as a ‘fragrance model’ at the long-gone May Company on Wilshire and Fairfax.
Robin and Jennifer Coe -sisters and visionaries in their own right- took a chance on me and hired me as the first guy to work in their store- Studio Beautymix inside Fred Segal- and I
couldn’t have been or felt more welcomed. Though I was fascinated by makeup and being a child of the ’80s, painted my face with aplomb before going out to Angeleno clubs like Egg Salad, No Wax Formica, and Impact, I had never picked up a brush professionally in my life.
In truth, I was attracted by the custom blending fragrance bar and all of the unique, exclusive, non-department store fragrances they carried like Jean LaPorte, Annick Goutal, and Comptoir Sud Pacifique. I left each day smelling amazing if not a little confusing. And though I had started doing makeup both in the store on clients as well as photo shoots, I’d amassed quite the following with my custom blended fragrances. I had a rolodex full of recipes for each client.
When I say that Fred Segal was the place to back then I mean that it was the place to be. We had a live DJ spinning records, a laid-back but palpable beach-y energy, and a chill European vibe where people came to meet, eat, and sip espresso for hours on end.

Arlt at Fred Segal’s fragrance bar in the late ’80s.

I’d often joke that one needn’t get a map to the stars’ homes, but just sit in the store for three hours to get your fill! I sold fragrance, bubble bath, skin care, and makeup to the likes of Ali McGraw, Darryl Hannah, Lauren Bacall, Winona Ryder, The Bangles, Janet Jackson, Debbie Allen (who cast me as an extra on A Different World), Harrison Ford (almost fainted when “Han Solo” asked me about Kiehl’s toner) and Patricia Wettig who was on the hit show Thirtysomething at the time and was the first famous person I did makeup on right there in the store.

As for the iconic owner- Fred was at once loving and intimidating. The divine Amy Stein who I worked with put the fear of God in me when she told me that any moment Fred could march up  with a bottle of shampoo in his hand and demand to know every ingredient and what it does (spoiler alert: he didn’t), though it was always my goal to make him smile when I saw him walking through the store (spoiler alert: I did).

Fred Segal’s stores weren’t just a lifestyle, they were life. L.A. life. He was truly the pioneer of the casual, acceptable yet chic “jeans and a t-shirt” look (very expensive ones, of course). It was a fashion movement and a major influence on California and ultimately, global fashion in general.

The man behind the namesake store was a true icon of pop culture. He was friends with the Dalai Lama and his name was mentioned in films such as Clueless and Legally Blonde. He was also a crusader for peace and donated so much time and energy into global awareness and healing the planet. He opened one of the first environmentally conscious department stores in L.A., which opened across the street from the Santa Monica store and carried brands like Seventh Generation, Origins, and Robin Kay.

Personally, I forged lifelong friendships in the 3 1/2 years I worked there. I saw people fall in love, get married, have babies, experience loss, have major success, and the like. Robin and Jennifer were genuine pioneers in the beauty industry who curated a truly “one stop” shopping destination, with only the best of the best and coveted, niche products that you could only get at that location. I owe my career to them.

Fred’s daughters Sharon, Nina, and Annie were- and are- some of the loveliest, sweetest humans on the planet and I’d always delight when they came by the store to say hi and chat (I think I may have done Annie’s eyebrows for the first time in her life at the store). I cannot send them and their families more love or more light during this unfathomable time. Fred Segal the man will never be forgotten and neither will his famous and beautiful mantra: Look See Feel Be Love ALL.

Learn more about Fred Segal stores here.

LA Weekly