Malibu-Based Retail Star James Perse Channels His Clean Aesthetic Into Lifestyle Design

From T-shirts to travel destinations.

James Perse, like his California clothing brand of the same name, epitomizes the Malibu way of life: affluent, cool, casual. With a $250 million business and 55 shops under his banner, James turned quality soft cotton T-shirts into a retail success story. According to Los Angeles Magazine, his trajectory was nearly 25 years in the making.

“A self-professed ‘aesthetic junkie,’ Perse first launched his California casualwear empire in 1996. When you are selling T-shirts at a luxury price point—his basic Luxe Lotus jersey will run you $165, thanks to some sort of high-tech Japanese fabrication—it’s important to get the details right.

“In the intervening years Perse’s vision grew far beyond the world of wardrobe staples, and yet, somehow, few people really know much about his expanding real estate ambitions and his upstart in the world of interiors, food, and hospitality. In part it’s because Perse has been quietly working away while eschewing the typical PR strategy.

“’There’s so much taking yourself way too seriously [in fashion], where it’s all pretend. I mean, sure, pretend sells. I just don’t like it,’ he says. ‘I watched a lot of design kids get caught up in press and PR and building an engine, but they didn’t have a business. And it doesn’t make any sense—you are going to burn out on that and have nothing else that pays the bills. So I just stuck my head in the sand and decided I wanted to be a doer.’”

That doer mentality now has Perse branching out to real estate in Malibu, where he has built new homes in his clean, neutral style. He also recently opened a café in Montreal and will soon debut a hospitality experience in Cabo. You can see photos of his projects here.

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