Flannel shirt tycoon Jeff Abrams is expanding his elegant Montecito real estate holdings. Records reveal the L.A.-based fashion designer has purchased one of the most unique properties in Santa Barbara County: El Mirador, a 13.75-acre private compound that’s filled with century-old exotic plants, Japanese gardens, hidden lagoons and a stone grotto. The unconventional estate also sports a notably majestic driveway, and its towering gates date to the 1910s.
Abrams is founder and CEO of Rails, the clothing company that bills itself as “a contemporary global lifestyle brand.” Though originally devoted exclusively to women’s shirts — its signature $148 plaid long sleeves are a favorite of Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Kendall Jenner and Kate Moss — Rails has grown exponentially, into a full-range apparel brand for women, men and kids. Today, Abrams’ casually luxe designs are sold in major American department stores such as Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale’s, as well as in the U.K. and continental Europe.
About a year ago, Abrams paid exactly $10 million for Montecito’s 4.5-acre Palmyra estate, which happens to sit right next door to the much larger lot he just purchased. As it turns out, the two separate properties were both once part of a bygone, 70-acre residential compound developed a century ago by ultra-wealthy Chicago meatpacking heiress Lolita Armour and her husband, United Airlines co-founder Jack Mitchell.
Armour’s mother bought her the Montecito land that would eventually become El Mirador, and she and Mitchell subsequently spent an almost unfathomable sum of money landscaping and maintaining every inch of the 70-acre property. According to digital marketing materials, the couple installed a “Japanese lake” with a wooden bridge and floating teahouse, vegetable gardens, avocado and citrus orchards, a massive outdoor amphitheater and a 500-foot Italian formal garden with a tiered mini-river cascading down the hill. There was also a private zoo stocked with exotic animals — a wallaby, macaw and even two bears.
By the early 1940s, WWII had levied financial constraints on the family, and Armour and Mitchell’s sweet romance soured. The couple soon divorced and El Mirador’s grounds fell into a state of disrepair, with many of the original amenities lost to the unforgiving sands of time. But the property stayed in Armour’s family, though her children eventually subdivided and sold off parts of the giant estate.
The last remaining piece of the compound, the 13.75-acre plot of land just purchased by Abrams, was long occupied by Lolita “Tita” Lanning, Mitchell and Armour’s adopted daughter. The only residential structure on the property is a 1,900 sq. ft., Mediterranean-style gatehouse with two bedrooms, a holdover from the original development. The coral-colored home has teal shutters, a living room and sunroom, each equipped with fireplaces, and a brick-terraced central courtyard.
El Mirador’s epic, palm tree-lined driveway still lies on the estate, though the famed Italian gardens and zoo have been overtaken by natural grasses and shrubs. But some relics of a bygone era still remain — the Japanese lake and bridge are intact, as is the ivy-covered stone grotto.
Lanning died in late 2018; soon after, the estate was listed for $15 million. But with no takers, the price was eventually hacked down to $10.9 million, and records show Abrams nabbed the place at a veritable steal — he paid just $6.85 million, a whopping 54% discount off the original ask. Combined with his other home next door, he’s now spent nearly $17 million on his own Montecito residential Shangri-La, which he can fashion, update and design to his own tastes.
It seems likely Abrams will merge the two properties into an 18-acre compound, reuniting the long-divorced parcels together as one Gatsbyesque paradise — just like they were 100 years ago, way back in the Roaring ’20s.