The oil and entertainment tycoon had an acute sense of the right moment to buy and sell businesses and properties, and when he needed a suit, he went to Costa Mesa-based Rod Alan.
Marvin Davis, the late billionaire who made his fortune as chairman of Davis Petroleum and at one time owned 20th Century Fox and the Beverly Hills Hotel, gave the then-20-year-old owner of the atelier a chance to construct a bespoke suit for him — and another business partnership was born.
But the road to winning over this high-profile client was rocky, to say the least, for the company’s founder and namesake, Rod Alan Baker.
One stop was the Davis corporate campus, where Baker planned to shake the hand of the man who dominated Rocky Mountain oil, but every office door was locked.
Baker spotted a maintenance man and asked for directions to Davis’ office.
After making his way to the 23rd floor, he introduced himself to Davis’ assistant with a business card and asked to meet the mogul. She suggested he return for an appointment the following Tuesday.
When Tuesday rolled around, rush-hour traffic delayed Baker, making him 15 minutes late to the meeting.
Davis, sitting behind a desk that was a replica of Denver oil magnate Blake Carrington’s on “Dynasty” — the 1980s television series that featured actor John Forsythe in the title role and was said to have been inspired by Davis — wouldn’t have it.
“He looked at me and said, ‘Do you know how much you cost me?’ ” Baker said with a laugh in his Costa Mesa showroom recently. “He told me that I had to get to a phone and let somebody know I was running late.
“Then he asked me to leave his office, but he stopped me and said he had no idea how I got into his office and he admired that. If I wanted to call him and set up another time, that’d be fine.”
Baker would dress Davis for the next 25 years.
It was a lesson in punctuality, respect and forgiveness that Baker would apply to his nearly four-decade career in supplying custom-tailored suits and casual wear to a high-profile clientele that has included actor Kelsey Grammer, the late comedian Don Rickles and a number of the country’s richest men.
Baker, a Kansas native, learned the value of dressing like a gentleman early in life. At 18, he folded clothes at a men’s retail store.
But he quickly recognized the limitations of relying on foot traffic.
So he opted to move on and get into custom-tailoring clothes. He would bring his tape measures, fabric swatches and refined tastes to a business executive’s office and ultimately create a complete, personalized wardrobe.
Baker moved to Orange County 27 years ago and opened his Rod Alan showroom in a Costa Mesa office complex that he later furnished with billiard tables, a stocked bar and television screens.
It’s a comfortable environment where professionals feel confident to be suited or conduct off-site conference calls and meetings, Baker said.
Before determining which fabrics, colors and designs best suit a client, Baker said, he first helps a person find out who he or she is on the inside.
It’s why he and colleague Rick Wagner authored “Extraordinarily You From the Inside Out,” a book based on the idea that clothing should communicate the essence of a person.
“You never know when you’re going to meet that one person who could change your life forever,” said Baker, who also is a keynote speaker at Fortune 500 companies, where he discusses the language of dress and the importance of first impressions. “I ask my clients, ‘What are you communicating in clothing that speaks long before you do? Are your employees also communicating your business statement?’ ”
His thinking has attracted endorsements from J.B. Scott, heir to the Albertson’s fortune, actor, singer and author Tom Sullivan and Fletcher Jones Jr. of Mercedes Benz motor cars.
Besides his focus on design, Baker constructs each garment using fabrics from Italy, England and Australia, and the crafting takes a minimum of 43 hours.
Reinforced collars and cuffs don’t require starch, pants are lined to the knee with silk to ensure comfort during warm weather and Mylar-coated buttons offer durability.
Baker, who claims to have the only boutique in the world to carry luxury jeweler David Yurman pieces, also offers personal shopping for men and women who find the shopping experience overwhelming and frustrating.
His expertise has garnered him close relationships with business professionals who turn to him in other aspects of life, such as home decorating, investing and selling and shopping for automobiles.
During a house meeting with a local millionaire who asked Baker to style his wardrobe for an overseas business trip, he overheard his client talk to the house manager, giving instructions before his pending departure.
“He said, ‘Remember to be here right at 9 o’clock sharp because Rod is never late,’ ” Baker recounted. “I looked up and said, ‘Thank you, Marvin.’ ”
For more information, call (949) 625-4526 or visit rod-alan.com.