Dribbling his way between basketball, fashion and architecture, James Goldstein is the billionaire building a legend of luxury: that of his very own lifestyle.
Pinning down James Goldstein is a bit of a mission. Whilst you’re almost guaranteed to find him on the front row of any prestigious catwalk, when it’s not show season, he’s anywhere and everywhere. Hopping between the Paris Couture shows and Berlin Fashion Week, with his eyes set on Copenhagen, we finally track him down. “Hold on. I’m on the beach in Ibiza and there is a plane flying over me,” comes the voice down the crackly phone line. “OK. That’s better now.” After a sightseeing stint in Zurich, Goldstein is now taking time off in the Mediterranean’s party island. “When I’m not in LA, I go to a lot of different places because I’m very involved with basketball and during the playoffs I travel for almost two months,” he explains. An attendee of a modest 100 or so games a year, it’s no wonder that Goldstein is as at home courtside as at a Parisian show.
Such a frequent and fervent guest is he that he’s become an iconic ‘FROW’ feature at any show worth attending: Goldstein continues to be an industry favourite, both as a socialite extraordinaire and a top buyer. “I guess I started about 30 years ago, but on a limited basis, and eventually increased the number of shows that I attend over the years,” he relates. “Even if the shows aren’t that great, there are lots of parties, the top people from the city are out and about and I get to meet everybody. It’s really turned into a very enjoyable endeavour for me.”
The man of mystery – somewhat crudely nicknamed the ‘Urban Cowboy’ – is an enigma waiting to be solved. While much ink has been wasted on trying to work out how he made his fortune – reportedly in property investments – Goldstein remains impervious and unshaken by this attention: “Maybe because I’m somewhat unique and I’m different from other people, that sort of adds to my mystery in their eyes. [People] are still sort of intrigued by me because they think there is more to my story than what they know.”
A keen adept of exotic skins, rock & roll attire and signature western pieces, Goldstein has also maintained his own fashion status through inimitable style, championing the wave of exuberant menswear designs, and was always a keen supporter, when they were still in the business, of Jean Paul Gaultier, Roberto Cavalli and John Galliano. “I would say the two designers that I probably look to the most at the moment would be Saint Laurent and Balmain,” he muses. “People don’t understand what I’m wearing or don’t appreciate it, but it doesn’t bother me.”
Other than fashion and NBA, James Goldstein’s outrageously “humble” abode in the hills of LA, on Beverly Crest, fills his time. The organic architecture wonder, designed and built by John Lautner in the 1960s, is a masterpiece in its own right, both because of its situation and its design. The proud owner since 1972, Goldstein carefully monitored (and most importantly, funded) its renovation, in close collaboration with Lautner. “About 20 years ago, I took a much more aggressive stance on coming up with the designs myself and working together with a former assistant of [Lautner’s], named Duncan [Nicholson].”
With the main part of the house finally renovated, Goldstein has set his sights higher, designing and building a three-level complex above the original estate. Topped with a tennis court overlooking LA, the new addition comprises ‘Club James’ and a terrace, consisting of a covered roof, open kitchen and bar. “I’ve always wanted to design my own club after attending them on a regular basis all my life,” the insatiable reveler tells us. “Together with the club on the second level are my offices. The last piece of the project is a theatre, which hasn’t even been started yet. I don’t even know when that will be completed...”
When your offices are so close to your very own club, work and play must be easily interchangeable. “There have been a number of parties,” he confirms. “Rihanna’s birthday party was a huge success and very enjoyable for me.” While it might seem awe-inspiring for most, Goldstein remains casual about the famous and glamorous. “I hang out with the young generation, even though I’m getting up in the years. [They] seem to always accept me and love having me around,” he relates. “I feel much more comfortable with them than with the middle-aged or old generation. I just don’t fit in well with the older crowd.”
With such ardent energy, the end is nowhere in sight. “I don’t really like to wind down,” he chuckles. “I like to keep going at a strong pace, as much as possible.” To the sullen sound of Ibizan gulls, Goldstein gives us his farewell remarks. “You might say what I’m doing at this moment – sitting on the beach – is winding down, but I just arrived here a couple of hours ago. I’m hoping for some excitement tonight.”