Seeking a quintessential Los Angeles fashion experience? Here are our picks of the top boutiques where you can have one.
AMERICAN RAG CIE
The vibe: Southern California high-low style and culture in all its glory — vintage mixed with denim and work wear, contemporary clothing and street wear, plus books, DVDs and housewares, and a see-and-be-seen sidewalk cafe.
The goods: American Rag is really three stores in one. The main shop features designer clothing (Cynthia Vincent, Funktional, Free People, Comme des Garçons Play) and shoes (Dr. Martens, Toms, Creative Recreation) alongside a superbly edited selection of vintage clothing and accessories. The World Denim Bar has work wear and denim (Denham, PRPS, Levi’s Made & Crafted, Ksubi), and the housewares store features outdoor furniture, glassware and accessories with a French Mediterranean twist to match the restaurant’s menu.
The back story: Since opening it on La Brea in 1985, founder Mark Werts has grown American Rag Cie from a modest vintage business into a mega boutique with locations in Los Angeles and Newport Beach, Calif
Where to find it: 150 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 935-3154, www.amrag.com.
The vibe: The antidote to cookie-cutter fashion. Hippie chic-meets-Pop Art-meets commune.
The goods: Unisex T-shirts, sweat shirts, sweat pants, cargo pants and knit caps, as well as iPhone cases and Quoddy moccasins hand-printed with doves, rainbows, bicycles and other feel-good graphics, and slogans such as “Share Food,” “Basic Goodness” and “Life Nature Love.” The shop-cum-art gallery, which has a different theme each year (now it’s bikes), also sells patchouli perfume, brown bread, ceramic pots and books on subjects like Oscar Niemeyer, Corita Kent and Yoko Ono.
The back story: Nina Garduno, the former menswear buyer for Ron Herman at Fred Segal, opened the Freecity Supershop in 2005. Her goal? Put the focus back on the art and craft of fashion.
Where to find it: 1139 N. Highland Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 461-2226, www.freecitysupershop.com.
The vibe: Beachy casual with a metropolitan edge, a shop that includes Alexander McQueen evening gowns and Prada flip-flops.
The goods: The 6,500-square-foot store has everything a woman needs to take her from carpooling (Isabel Marant jackets, Inhabit sweaters and Mother jeans) to a business meeting (Stella McCartney suits, Chloe separates) to a museum gala (Valentino and J. Mendel gowns). Owner Elyse Walker, whose family was in the shoe business, puts a huge focus on accessories, including bags by Nancy Gonzalez, Proenza Schouler and Balenciaga, shoes by Christian Louboutin and Pierre Hardy, and jewelry by Husam el Odeh and Lanvin.
The back story: Walker opened her store in 1999 with 800 square feet of selling space, gambling that women in Malibu and the Palisades would rather shop with her than trek to Beverly Hills. Personal shopping services are a specialty, and sales associates can text or email clients photos of styles they might like or deliver rolling racks of clothes to their homes.
Where to find it: Just off Sunset Boulevard at 15306 Antioch St., Pacific Palisades, (310) 230-8882, www.forwardbyelysewalker.com.
The vibe: A store that incorporates the personal attention that Hollywood’s celebrity stylists give their clients with high-end designers, many of whom create exclusive items for the store.
The goods: A well-edited selection of difficult-to-find-in-L.A. designers such as Hussein Chalayan, Azzedine Alaia, Viktor & Rolf, Mark Fast and Sofia Kokosalaki, as well as locally based labels such as Juan Carlos Obando, Annie Costello Brown and Bare jewelry.
The back story: Designer and trend forecaster Des Kohan opened her eponymous boutique in March 2005 and has since garnered a loyal following of customers who covet the personal attention and selection of non-trendy wares.
Where to find it: 671 S. Cloverdale Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 857-0200. www.deskohan.com
The vibe: The godfather of the L.A. fashion scene, and nearly every designer and stylist in town has worked here at one time or another.
The goods: High-end designer clothing by Junya Watanabe, Proenza Schouler, Dries Van Noten, Carven, Gant by Michael Bastian, Raquel Allegra and A.L.C., mixed with more affordable stuff by L’Agence, Current/Elliott, Alexander Wang and Elizabeth & James, shoes, accessories, beauty products and housewares at the Melrose location. Mauro Cafe, also at the Melrose location and open since 1994, is still one of the most fashionable lunch spots in town.
The back story: What started as L.A.’s first high-end jeans bar in 1960 has grown into a community of boutiques including Ron Herman, Ron Robinson, Conveyer, Madison and Zero Minus Plus, under the Fred Segal umbrella in two locations.
Where to find it: 8118 Melrose Ave. at Crescent Heights, Los Angeles, and 420 and 500 Broadway in Santa Monica. Each boutique has its own phone number, www.fredsegal.com.
JAMES PERSE MALIBU
The vibe: This is how the rest of the world imagines L.A. shops — kicking back, listening to the waves, playing a little ping-pong and picking up a few $50 T-shirts while we’re at it. This Malibu outpost of the L.A.-based line is beachfront shopping at its best.
The goods: Perse’s famous super-soft cotton jersey T-shirts, skirts and tank tops, along with tube dresses, open-stitch sweaters and overdyed stripe cargo pants in nature-inspired shades such as “aquamarine,” “breeze” and “freshwater.”
The back story: James Perse (son of Maxfield’s Tommy Perse) got his start in the business at the age of 19 crafting caps that he sold off the shelves of his father’s store. From hats, Perse moved into the super-soft T-shirt that launched his eponymous brand in 1994. The first stand-alone James Perse boutique followed in 2003, and today there are 19 in the U.S., two in Canada and one in Japan. But only two — the first store and the Malibu outpost — sit across from a Maxfield boutique.
Where to find it: The Malibu Lumber Yard, 3939 Cross Creek Road, Malibu, (310) 469-6030, www.jamesperse.com.
The vibe: Standard-bearer of L.A.’s edgy, rock ‘n’ roll fashion side, and supporter of some of its biggest talents.
The goods: A mix of high-end stalwarts Chanel, Balmain, Celine and Dries Van Noten; niche brands Rick Owens, Comme des Garçons, Roland Mouret, Peter Pilotto and Duro Olowu; L.A.’s best, including Newbark, Thomas Wylde, Michael Schmidt and Loree Rodkin, and discoveries from Japan, including LGB and Mastermind. Men’s and women’s clothing, accessories and fine jewelry are available, along with vintage Hermes bags, books and objets.
The back story: A long-haired retail eccentric with a penchant for black and a fascination with skulls, Tommy Perse opened his doors for the first time in 1969 in a Santa Monica Boulevard store named for the artist Maxfield Parrish. He made enough money selling cork-soled sandals that he could go on buying trips to Europe. The result is that Perse gets credit for introducing designer labels like Giorgio Armani, Yohji Yamamoto and Comme des Garçons to American consumers.
Where to find it: 8825 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood, (310) 274-8800, www.maxfieldla.com.
JUST ONE EYE
The vibe: A conceptual space that mixes art and fashion. Think Maxfield 2.0, with a website that houses the experimental design featured in the bricks-and-mortar store, as well as editorial and video features and a piece created by Ed Ruscha.
The goods: Designers that share the same art-based design aesthetic as the store: Rodarte and Costume National as well as Proenza Schouler, Anthony Vaccarello and Sophie Theallet. Lines like Gienchi’s studded high-top sneakers, Dr. Romanelli’s fur vests and Jitrois’ leather pieces make this place the perfect outfitter for L.A’s high-end rocker types who can afford the best in luxe grunge.
The back story: New to the L.A. retail scene, the store stocks an interesting and well-edited selection of designers that have nothing to do with basics, denim or jersey tops. In fact, there’s nothing basic about this place. Between the store and its online presence, there’s a lot to digest. Navigating the site’s home page requires a little patience, but for avant-garde design-obsessed shoppers, it may be worth the work.
The vibe: Roadside souvenir shop of yore, with the scent of pinyon hanging thick in the air.
The goods: Handmade leather goods, including anchor-, arrow-, and flower-shaped brooches mounted on kilt pins, rough-hewn belts, wallets and Native American-inspired beaded friendship bracelets, as well as canvas smock tops, shorts and scarves with a back-to-the-land simplicity.
The back story: El Paso native Rene Holguin, who had previous stints at Levi’s and Ralph Lauren, opened the store at the end of 2010, and he and his friends make 90% of what’s for sale in the workshop out back.
Where to find it: 537 N. La Cienega Blvd., West Hollywood, (310) 289-7911, www.rthshop.com.
LOST & FOUND
The vibe: Six storefronts along a relatively quiet street in the heart of Hollywood that capture L.A.’s love for healthful living and thoughtful clothing and accessories. The antithesis of fast, disposable fashion, everything here has an artisanal quality and an earthy aesthetic common in canyon neighborhoods.
The goods: Locally made items from all over the world including woven chairs from India, espadrilles from Spain, leather bags from Italy and trading beads from Africa.
The back story: Owner Jamie Rosenthal, a former film and fashion stylist, opened Lost & Found 13 years ago with just one storefront selling children’s clothing. She now has six storefronts and sells men’s and women’s clothing, home and kitchen goods, accessories and children’s clothes and furniture.
Where to find it: 6320 Yucca St., Los Angeles, (323) 856-5872. www.lostandfoundshop.com
The vibe: The place to look for what’s new in the old.
The goods: A treasure-trove of restored and reconstructed dresses, leather coats, tutus and sequin jackets on racks organized by decade (1940s through the 1990s) or theme (ethnic, pantsuits), with alterations available on site.
The back story: Former actress Shareen Mitchell has an eagle eye for spotting the next big vintage trend before anybody else, which is why costume designers from “Mad Men” and design teams from Marc Jacobs make this a regular stop.
Where to find it: East of downtown, at 1721 N. Spring St., Los Angeles (Enter on Baker Street), (323) 276-6226, www.shareenvintage.com.
©2012, The Los Angeles Times. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.