It’s a new chapter for Gigi Caruso — but she’s right at home as she unveils her first physical workspace and showroom at The Grove for Gigi C.
“This is actually my dad’s office right across and you can see in,” she said on the second floor, with a direct window view into her developer father Rick Caruso’s corporate headquarters.
“When I toured this space and was considering it, that was definitely top-of-mind,” she added. “I’m so family-oriented, and it’s so special. He’ll pop over here and say ‘hi.’ I can pop over there.”
The 23-year-old has taken over the former Barneys New York location, a 6,856-square-foot, two-level property. She’s given it new life with the help of interior designer David Samuel Ko of local firm Maison Ko.
“There’s so many memories I have coming here since I was little,” she said. “We would always come here and shop at the Barneys. We loved Barneys, and we were so excited to see the new trends. I’ve always loved fashion, even before Gigi C.”
Launched in 2017 when Caruso was just 17, Gigi C began as a swimwear line.
“I started cutting up old suits,” Caruso said of the early days. Acting as chief executive officer, she cofounded the brand with her mother Tina, its president. “And literally, like, safety-pinning them, gluing them together…so I went to her and I was like, ‘let’s create these.’ We just started going from there.”
The brand is known for its sporty-sexy aesthetic — with fans that include Eva Longoria, Irina Shayk, Candice Swanepoel, Naomi Watts and Selma Blair. Caruso and her mother have developed a core collection of blacks and whites featuring signature laser-cut designs on a smooth, scuba fabric made of polyester and spandex. The high-leg Riley Surfsuit, with geometric cutouts, is the bestseller at $275.
“It sucks you in and feels so good,” Caruso said, pointing it out. “The surf suits really came from me loving growing up wakeboarding and being in the water all the time. I would always wear little bikinis, and they would fall off. But I didn’t want to wear a full wetsuit. It’s not super cute. So, I was like, ‘I need to have something that’s cute and functional.’”
She’s explored color, with emerald landing best with shoppers, and introduced ripple and faux snakeskin fabrics, each made of polyamide and elastane. Produced in Los Angeles, Vietnam and Colombia, fabrics are sourced globally with a majority coming from European mills, according to the brand. It’s sold direct-to-consumer as well as at retailers that include Revolve, Harvey Nichols, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale’s. The brand offers bikinis, one-pieces, cover-ups, sportswear — with tennis as a new addition — as well as loungewear, including cashmere sets.
“My style has evolved and the brand has evolved with it,” said Caruso, who graduated from the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business in 2021. “I’m looking myself to invest in more timeless pieces and to wear more sophisticated styles but still have a twist of sexy.”
The core Gigi C consumer is 30 to 35 years old, she added. “She loves investing in timeless pieces, loves luxury, understands quality.”
The space reflects her personal taste, full of black-and-white detailing and neutrals with ash oak flooring, airy and bright, with massive steel windows throughout. The first floor is gallery-like, showcasing garments on custom brass racks, with two fitting rooms. The second level features offices, conference rooms and a design space, all with modern, glass partitions. It’s adorned with campaigns shot in tropical locations.
“What we did was we changed the floors, the walls, the ceilings,” Caruso explained. “It was more of an industrial feeling on the ceiling, and I wanted it to just be all clean.”
She kept Barneys’ original staircase: “It’s such a statement piece in the space. I love how open it is. It flows very easily.”
The furniture comes from European retailers, she said. “It’s just very minimalistic but very elevated at the same time.”
“Seeing as how the color palette is very clean and minimal, I personally wanted to head in a direction that felt a little French and Scandinavian,” noted Ko. “It was important that the Gigi C brand identity was reflected throughout. Gigi and I wanted to remain true to her brand as much as possible and that inspired all of our decisions.”
For Caruso, the physical space provides unity to her team — now a total of 14. It’s doubled in the last 18 months.
“We’ve had immense growth,” she said. “The brand is doing the best it’s ever done.…We have really just found what works for us. We know what our customer wants. And we’re responding to that.”
Gigi C is pacing for 35 percent year-over-year sales growth across all channels in 2023, the company told WWD, with d-to-c accounting for the majority of sales.
The showroom-office may one day become the brand’s first brick-and-mortar shop, Caruso said. But first, she aims to build a community. She’ll open her doors to the fashion world, as well as plans to partner with nearby businesses like La La Land Kind Cafe, which employs foster care youth.
“Really part of the reason I wanted to open this space is to connect with buyers, editors, stylists, the customer, influencers, and for them to touch the garments,” Caruso said. “It’s hard when you’re just selling online to really get true feedback. It’ll really help us with our design process.”
She went on, “The Grove is such an important spot of L.A., and it really brings people together. I know my dad, when he was building The Grove, his mission, goal was to bring families together, and [that] they feel safe here. And I feel like we’re in the middle of that family that he’s created here.”
Ultimately, her plan is for Gigi C “to become an even more elevated lifestyle brand, expanding into other categories so we can dress our girl from head to toe.”