DON’T ASK PAMELA SKAIST-LEVY WHERE THE NAME “JUICY” CAME FROM. “Oprah tried and we never tell. Gela and I are the only ones who know!” Well, that can certainly lead to some wild speculation. And the crest? “We both love monograms. When we drew what became Scotties, it was supposed to be a Yorkie—my Dan was the inspiration.” Dan seems to be fine with the mix-up, although Tinkerbell (her Chihuahua) might be miffed.
Juicy Couture—as high-style clients like Madonna and Cameron Diaz might be surprised to learn—was born from Valley style. Skaist-Levy grew up in Encino, shopping at Val Surf in shorts and a Hang Ten T-shirt. She has lived and loved the athletic-casual SoCal life. So much so, in fact, that 12 years later, Juicy operates in the exact same spot from which it started—a warehouse in Pacoima. Skaist-Levy and her co-Juicy, Gela Taylor, still “share a teeny office with broken air-conditioning.”
Although the pair sold to Liz Claiborne three years ago, the two remain the design and marketing heads for all things Juicy, recently driving sales over the $200 million mark. When at the Paris couture shows this year, they had dozens of Juicy-sightings, but the one that sent them reeling was John Galliano. “Vogue asked all the ladies at couture what their wardrobe basics were, and almost all said some form of Juicy!” Next up, perfume (“Juicy Couture #1”), home (“William Yeoward just named a pattern after me! The ‘Pamela!’”), and before the end of the year, stores in Malibu, Santa Barbara and San Francisco. Phew.
No wonder Pamela and her husband of 20 years, filmmaker Jefery Levy, count the minutes until they can escape to their Malibu cottage. One of the few remaining original structures in the legendary “Colony,” their 1,800-square-foot abode called “The Barn” oozes charm and cozy sophistication. On approach to the tiny entrance, the lanterns are askew and door unremarkable. But once opened, an enchanted allee lined with white bougainvillea and flagstone draws you straight to a burst of sunlit Pacific Ocean with waves crashing literally beneath your feet. The storied Malibu Colony has long been the private enclave of movie folk; this house is no exception. Built in 1940 on piers, it has been home to Oscar winners Robert Towne (Chinatown) and Barry Spikings (The Deer Hunter). Even Diana Ross took in the ocean breezes from the deck one summer.
With their overloaded schedules, the couple doesn’t unwind until their silver Mercedes G55 passes through the Colony gates. “The smell of the ocean makes me feel like when I was a little girl with my family at the beach. My mother still boogie boards!” Skaist-Levy enthuses. Don’t let that admission lead you to believe that mom was Skaist-Levy’s style icon, though. Both Levys have doctor-fathers and homemaker-mothers, but Pamela’s parents are “very conservative preppy New Englanders.” Who happen to boogie board.
The ocean has long been an important emotional trigger for Skaist- Levy and her husband. For years, they rented on different Malibu beaches knowing one day they would own—even buying art without a wall to hang it on. “We got the Catherine Opie photographs (from her “Surfer” series) before we had this house!” Their passion for photography and modern art lends a crisp finish to the eclectic interiors. With its dramatic vaulted ceiling and skylights, the house perfectly showcases three black and white photographs from Don James’s “Surfing San Onofre to Point Dume: 1936-1942” series.
“This place wasn’t for sale,” Jef ex- plains. “Our realtor called the owner [Thomas Gottchalk, Germany’s own Jay Leno] and got us in to take a look.” He knew right away this was the house of their dreams. After relentless badgering, they finally closed the purchase and set to making it their own. Clear turquoise blue art glass mimics the ocean and sky, punctuated by tangerine accents mirroring the sunsets.
“Once I found the turquoise leather chair, I knew this was the color for the house,” says Skaist-Levy. A Portuguese hutch from the early 1900s provided additional inspiration— Hermès filling in the rest. There’s Hermès china, flatware, blankets, coin trays and, of course, Birkins. “The Hermès obsession—it’s embarrassing because I consider myself really down to earth,” says the designer. A friend in the background laughs hysterically and Skaist-Levy begs to differ. “Nancy, I am SO down to earth!” “Yes, Princess!” comes the reply.
In their “down-to-earth” mode, the Levys get up at 6:30 in the morning, make coffee and immediately check the tide charts. “If it’s low tide, we take the dogs for a beach walk. Otherwise, we bike ride or build sand- castles.” The Levy’s five-year-old son Noah pipes up, reminding mom of the sandcastle cake she made. “Well, that actually didn’t turn out too well.”
Jef is among L.A.’s most serious oenophiles, and he also loves to cook. In the fridge, next to the Coke Zero, is fresh produce from the local farmer’s market. They open the house to friends and family for barbecues and lobster boils (after the kids play lobster race); but if the lobsters run off or the cake doesn’t turn out, they have a standing reservation at Nobu.
Although a second home in Malibu is a nice fringe benefit, there can be no more fitting tribute to Skaist-Levy’s Valley-inspired success than being immortalized as that ultimate California girl, Barbie. When Mattel called, Pamela and Gela saw it as the perfect opportunity to give back; 100 percent of the royalties are donated to the National Foundation for Facial Reconstruction (NFFR) and ChildHelp USA. Wearing an iconic Juicy Couture terry tracksuit and dripping in shopping bags, Pamela is now a pop culture legend with Tink (getting her due after being snubbed for the “crest”) at her side.