The Max Factor: A Fashion Superstar Takes Center Stage

Max Azria’s Beverly Hills-based BCBGMaxAzria Entertainment, will stage the first U.S. production of “Ten Commandments: The Musical.”

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LOS ANGELES — Apparel mogul Max Azria has added a new title to his résumé: theater producer. Beginning Sept. 18, his new Beverly Hills-based company, BCBGMaxAzria Entertainment, will stage the first U.S. production of the French hit “Ten Commandments: The Musical,” starring Val Kilmer as Moses, at Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre. (A run in New York is slated for January at Radio City Music Hall.) For many designers seeking to break into showbiz, the idea of producing and financing a $12 million spectacle would seem as daunting as parting the Red Sea. Here, Azria, who built his $350 million clothing empire after emigrating from Paris by way of Tunisia 20 years ago, speaks about his leap of faith.

WWD: It was the show, rather than the idea of becoming a producer, that spurred you to form a production company. How did it happen?

Max Azria: It was Paris 2001, and I was reading a newspaper article about Elie Chouraqui, who created the musical, and I said, “Oh my gosh, that is such a strong idea.” Especially at this moment when the world is in such trouble, it’s very apropos. So I called and said, “I want 100 tickets for the first night.” Two months later, I was back in Paris. I met with my partner, Charles Cohen, and I said, “This show is mine. I’ll pay for it, I’ll produce it.” Naturally, he said, “Are you joking? It’s not your job.” I said, “I will make it my job.” After opening night, I went to dinner in Rouen with Elie, and at midnight, we wrote a contract on a paper towel. I’m not joking.

WWD: Why did you select Hollywood as a venue over New York, which is better known for theater?

M.A.: Los Angeles is where I see the creativity of the entertainment industry. For the last five years, we’ve seen fashion and entertainment become closer than ever. For the last two years, there’s been no fashion book without an actress on the cover. Now, what entrepreneur wouldn’t dream of developing a house of entertainment? I will have so much fun with this, because entertainment is a lot like fashion. It’s the same gymnastics of the spirit. We always have to have vision and to look forward.
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