When she opened her boutique across from Oxmoor in 1993, Raquel Koff was a newly-divorced mom with a dream. A quarter of a century later, she is a proud “Glam-ma” who runs her stunning designer boutique with her daughter at her side and a killer list of clients behind her.
The first thing that hits you when you walk into the sparkling palace of style known as Rodeo Drive is that it’s a full, three-hundred-and-sixty-degree fashion experience. In front of you, center store, stand mannequins dressed in dazzling designer attire ranging from skirts and leather jackets to gorgeous gowns. Behind that looms the shoe and purse wall where Stuart Weitzman, Vince and Rebecca Minkoff temptations are presented in perfectly backlit cases. Dead center is command central: a circular glass counter filled with statement accessories that range from fab costume to the real thing.
Behind that counter, if she’s not standing outside a dressing room offering encouraging advice to a customer, is Raquel Koff, the women who created this local fashion mecca and kept it growing and changing over the last twenty-five years. The boutique sprang from sheer determination and necessity. After graduating from Tulane, she worked as a buyer for Ben Snyder department store, then for a local boutique. “Then I got divorced and I needed to figure things out,” she says. “I quit the boutique and thought about going into pharmaceutical sales, but people started calling me and saying, ‘You have to dress me!’”
Her father co-signed a loan, she got a partner and opened Rodeo Drive across from Oxmoor Center in August 1993. “We carried collections, gowns and cocktail dresses,” she says. “I didn’t have denim, I didn’t carry shoes; we were a small boutique.” With Koff’s big personality and ideas behind it, the business grew and evolved, eventually moving to Holiday Manor where daughter, Michelle Tasman, came on board. “We evolved from a mini boutique to a small department store with a thriving on-line business,” says Koff. Their A-list brands include Alice + Olivia, Rachel Zoe, DVF, Nicole Miller and their merchandise includes shoes, bags, belts, jewelry, skincare and fine fragrances.
Koff fell in love with fashion through Barbie and it’s strangely appropriate: She is almost legendary for being a tiny, stunning, blonde fashion plate. But she is incredibly humble about the twenty-fifth anniversary which she celebrated in a very Rodeo way. “I wanted to do something relevant,” she says. “So I asked customers who have been with us forever to go into their closets and find clothes they’ve bought from us over the years. They’re bringing in outfits and we’re reminiscing and it’s been very emotional.’”
The result of this collective search was an archival collection of Rodeo looks, all displayed on mannequins, with photos and descriptions of who wore the ensemble where. It was a fitting tribute to a woman who has built a business on a keen fashion sense and close customer relationships. “I love the clothes, but I love what clothes do for people even more,” says Koff. “I love to make people feel pretty.”