Rodeo Drive is known for a luxurious lifestyle, beautiful people and world class shopping. What is not as widely known is that Beverly Hills residents, who call this sophisticated and cosmopolitan area “home,” are a tight-knit community that take pride in maintaining and preserving the image that Rodeo Drive enjoys worldwide. Peri Ellen Berne, the boutique manager of the Pomellato store on Rodeo Drive, is a Beverly Hills resident and is a committed member in both the business and residential communities.
Berne has lived in Beverly Hills for nearly 15 years and has worked on Rodeo Drive for nearly 20 years. She has been a Rodeo Drive Committee member for 18 years and served a term as the committee’s president before she stepped down to spearhead and chair the Rodeo Drive Walk of Style, which she continues to lead. Berne now manages the Pomellato store on Rodeo Drive, which offers beautiful Italian jewelry, handmade by artisans in Milan, Italy. The Pomellato brand is known for the use of colorful gemstones, and their collections are chic and wearable.
We sat down with Berne to talk about the unique relationship between Rodeo Drive and its community and to get all the details on the Rodeo Drive Walk of Style, from its inception to present day.
What makes Rodeo Drive different from other high-profile shopping destinations around the world?
Rodeo Drive is home to some of the most beautiful stores in the world and boasts flagship stores for the most stylish global companies, from ready to wear to jewelry and watches – all in the span of two and a half blocks. Rodeo Drive finds itself located in a region that enjoys fabulous weather year round, and it offers a kind of glamor unlike any other shopping destination.
What do you think defines the spirit of Rodeo Drive?
I think over the years Rodeo Drive has become the ultimate shopping destination; it’s featured in movies and television shows, and as you walk down Rodeo Drive, you too feel like a star. People that work here are proud to represent the companies they work for, and to feel like a part of a vibrant community.
I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to work on this street for as long as I have. I feel honored to be in this community as a merchant and as a resident.
How has your personal style been influenced by having a store on Rodeo Drive? How has managing a store on Rodeo Drive influenced you personally?
I’ve been lucky in my career to represent beautiful brands and to work with some of the most coveted jewelers and fashion houses. I’ve always been humbled to be a part of such an extraordinary lifestyle. As far as my own fashion sense, I have gained a greater appreciation for fine quality merchandise. My style has certainly been influenced by the brands I have represented; I love bright colors, classic fitted styles and a touch of sparkle. Having worked here has given me an enhanced understanding of how fashion and beauty intersect with the entertainment world.
What is Rodeo Drive Walk of Style?
The Rodeo Drive Walk of Style was a program we proposed in 2002, and it was adopted as an official program in 2003. When we first started the Rodeo Drive Walk of Style, we wanted to involve key members in the community. We invited hoteliers, business owners and Rodeo Drive merchants, as well as city council members in order to come up with a cohesive program and vision. Once the program was outlined, the Rodeo Drive Committee took on the leadership to develop and implement the program.
Originally, the Rodeo Drive Walk of Style was intended to honor fashion designers. However, we decided it was important to expand the program to honor fashion legends, including famous fashion photographers, costume designers, fashion icons, fashion media, etc.
To keep the program relevant over the years, we have continued to put a new spin on it, but we’ve always stayed true to the original vision of honoring fashion legends whose careers and life’s work merged with entertainment.
Rodeo Drive is the ultimate intersection between fashion and entertainment. The Rodeo Drive Walk of Style was the perfect opportunity to marry the two concepts; that’s why the program works.
Who have been some of your favorite Rodeo Drive Walk of Style honorees?
It’s difficult to choose any one in particular—each and every one is distinctive and special in its own right. Our first honoree was Giorgio Armani, and that was extraordinary because we didn’t know how big the Rodeo Drive Walk of Style would become. Having him as our first honoree set the tone for the program. Honoring him really set the bar for the Rodeo Drive Walk of Style and put it on an international stage. We have been able to honor some extraordinary fashion legends over the years because he was the first. He was one of the first, if not THE first to put fashion and entertainment together. Armani set the tone for designers showcasing their fashion collections in movies and helped to create a new business of fashion stylists, changing the fashion industry.
Peri Ellen poses with Prince Albert II of Monaco (left) and Giorgio Armani (right) at Rodeo Drive Walk of Style Events.
Another honoree that was very special to me was Grace Kelly, really a fashion icon. What a stunning woman; she was always so elegant and truly regal. Actually, it was a ‘Cinderella moment’ for me to present her son, Prince Albert of Monaco, with her award because I would never have believed that in my lifetime I would interact with royalty. It was such an honor. I was so charmed and moved by him as he spoke about his mother, it was so clear how much he loved and adored her. Before the award presentation, Prince Albert’s assistant asked me to accompany him on the red carpet. Never have I experienced the flashing lights of the paparazzi like that, nor will I again. That evening was magical for me.
What is the story behind the iconic Rodeo Drive Walk of Style statue, and why did you choose it?
At the first meeting about the Rodeo Drive Walk of Style, we were discussing that the award given to honorees needs to be extraordinarily beautiful, as do the plaques embedded in the street. We asked ourselves ‘What can we do to make it distinctive to Beverly Hills, distinctive to California, but also have a global appeal?’
We went to acclaimed artist Robert Graham, who was based in Venice, California. His sculpture style was so intimate that we felt it would enhance the Rodeo Drive Walk of Style and make it more special. Since Beverly Hills is such a small community, we wanted the award to have global appeal. We also wanted the award to be a work of art someone would want to display in his or her home and really treasure and love. We wanted recipients to have this beautiful piece of artwork as a remembrance. When Graham first presented ‘Torso’ to us, we were awe-struck and thought it was provocative, stunning and the perfect fit to represent the Rodeo Drive Walk of Style. We fell in love with it immediately.
What do you see in the future for the Rodeo Drive Walk of Style?
I think the future is exciting; the Rodeo Drive Walk of Style continues to evolve and we want to continue to push the envelope and make it interesting for the community and visitors and have relevance to the global fashion world. We will continue to adapt the program over the years but are committed to staying true to the initial vision – that of honoring people intimately involved in fashion and entertainment and who have put the two together in a beautiful way.
The Rodeo Drive Walk of Style is clearly near and dear to your heart, and we appreciate all of your work on the program. The Luxe Rodeo Drive Hotel is certainly special to us. What is something you love about the hotel?
One thing that has been consistent about the hotel is that it has become a fixture in the community. It’s a place that is proud to be a part of the community from every standpoint. From the people who frequent it for gatherings, events or just simply lunch or dinner or those who stay here while visiting Beverly Hills and Los Angeles, the Luxe Rodeo Drive Hotel is central to Rodeo Drive and Beverly Hills. Personally for me, it is like my ‘Cheers’ from the famous television show. When I come to the Luxe Rodeo Drive Hotel, everyone knows my name and it feels like I belong. I think the whole Beverly Hills community feels the same way. It’s ‘their’ place.
The friendliness of the place never ceases to amaze me. It’s the little things that count…. When I drive by in the morning, I get a wave hello from the valets. When I just stop by, inevitably I see familiar faces from our community or the staff. I chat with the waiter who has worked there for 15 years, exchange greetings with the charming General Manager Marcus Mueller or sometimes I visit with the owner, Efrem Harkham. It is a lovely ambiance, very welcoming.
What has been one of the most memorable experiences you’ve had on Rodeo Drive?
Besides my work on the Rodeo Drive Walk of Style, my first experience on Rodeo Drive was very memorable for me. I was 10, and my parents brought me for the day to Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive. My mom and dad took me into Giorgio of Beverly Hills. They said to me, ‘This is a store that if you walk inside, there is a bar and you can order a coke.’ I thought it was unbelievable. I went into Giorgio, and in the middle of so many colorful and elegant clothes, I walked up to the counter and asked a saleslady for a coke. I thought it was extraordinary that I was in the middle of one of the most glamorous stores of the time, and I was being served a coke.
My first experience on Rodeo Drive was being served and now for the past 20 years, I’ve been serving people. I think that Rodeo Drive is about providing a lovely, elegant setting with knowledgeable, friendly salespeople, selling the best brands available in the world.