LA Times: Looking for a boutique take on off-price luxury labels? MadaLuxe Vault tries to crack the code

Trying to score a fashion-brand bargain at the outlet level usually requires expending a good deal of shoe leather because luxury labels such as Prada, Gucci and Armani usually showcase their discounted merchandise in these malls in mono-brand environments that require shoppers to pop in and out of a series of separate stores. But a new retail space at the Citadel Outlets is trying to flip that script by serving up off-price designer apparel and accessories in a setting that feels more like a traditional multi-brand boutique.

At first glance, the 3,000-square-foot Madaluxe Vault store, which opened Tuesday next door to the Commerce outlet center’s Armani outlet and across a courtyard from the Michael Kors one, is indistinguishable from the kind of high-end boutique one would encounter on Robertson Boulevard or Melrose Avenue; white walls, gray wooden floors, black metal store fixtures and a cadre of impossibly chic mannequins lounging in chairs and posing in the windows.

The shelves are filled with handbags by Balmain, Bottega Veneta and Dolce & Gabbana, the racks with suits and separates by Brioni, Gucci and Versace, and a wall filled with designer sunglasses overlooks display cases of timepieces. The difference, though, comes into focus on the price tag — which lists both the item’s original suggested retail price and the MadaLuxe Vault price.

The store’s merchandise mix is roughly 80% women’s and 20% men’s and includes apparel, accessories, eyewear and watches, with an emphasis (at least at opening — the nature of the off-price business means it’s likely to fluctuate wildly) on women’s handbags. A quick opening-day spin through the store found discounts ranging from 10 to 60% on things such as Tom Ford jeans (originally $680, discounted to $289), a $2,400 Gucci suit priced to move at $1,499 and a Gucci handbag with a snake design offered up for $1,999 (down from $2,300).

The store at the Citadel marks the first foray into bricks-and-mortar retail for 7-year-old Seal Beach-based MadaLuxe Group, which specializes in the North American distribution of European luxury labels’ off-price merchandise. (Off-price goods are things like end-of-season closeouts, overruns and retailer returns.) And, according to company president Adam Freede, it won’t be the last.

“In an ideal world,” Freede said, “if things go the way we plan, we could have anywhere from five to 10 leases [for additional stores] signed by this time next year.”

Freede, who co-founded MadaLuxe with his mother, Sandy Sholl (who serves as chief executive officer), said that there’s also an e-commerce component to the MadaLuxe Vault concept, though the items available online do not accurately reflect what’s up for grabs on the sales floor of the new store because of agreements and relationships with the various brands. (Gucci, for example, has a robust presence in the store, but its handbags and ready-to-wear aren’t offered through

Giving a multi-brand boutique backdrop to off-price luxury merchandise isn’t the only unique thing about the new MadaLuxe Vault store, either. Freede and Sholl, who sit on the board of governors of the Laguna Hills nonprofit World of Children organization, have pledged a portion of online and in-store proceeds to help fund that group’s programs for children in need.

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