Homegrown Los Angeles fashion runs the gamut from red-carpet-ready looks by Rodarte to slouchy, soft T-shirts by James Perse, which makes this county a shopper’s paradise. Fortunately for us, there’s a whole crop of area stores that allow you to sample all of the latest fashions without breaking the bank. The trick is simply knowing where to look. And we’ve got that covered.
Located on the main campus of the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in downtown Los Angeles, the ample space is a treasure trove of never-before-worn clothing, shoes and accessories. All of the merchandise—donated by more than 400 retailers, manufacturers, wholesalers and showrooms as varied as Tadashi Shoji, BCBG and Hot Topic—is priced below wholesale, often at 10% of the retail value. “You never know what you’re going to find,” says Ella Van Nort, director, stores of the FIDM Scholarship Foundation. The proceeds raise scholarship dollars for current FIDM students.
Surprised by the dismal conditions at an NYC sample sale—bad lighting, merchandise scattered about—two friends (who like to remain anonymous) thought they could do better. After they returned to L.A., the pair began hosting traveling sample sales. They set up a permanent shop on L.A.'s design-magnet West Third Street in 2009 then added a second location on Santa Monica's Montana Avenue in 2014. “Most of our items retail for $110 to $345,” the girls explain, “whereas our in-store price points generally average $38–$98.” Top-selling brands include LAmade, Bobi, Dolan, and B-Low the Belt, all of which are headquartered in Los Angeles County.
Since opening her first boutique in 1981, Sequin owner Sara Schifrin has changed the name of her business and moved twice (she's now in West L.A.), yet her customers always find her. “We have a very loyal clientele, from ages 16 to 90,” explains Schifrin. She has earned their devotion by selling quality merchandise at prices women can afford. She consistently stocks the L.A. brand Velvet, whose shipment arrives on the 15th of every month and quickly sells out. Other favourites include Just Black jeans for $78, Ethereal tops for $68, and Freeloader tees for $23.
There are nearly 200 Urban Outfitters stores in the United States, but not with the prices you'll find at this find on Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks. The space looks a lot like one of its full-price sister stores, but a closer look at the price tags reveals the difference. That’s because whatever doesn’t sell in the brand’s "regular" stores can end up here, explains John Hauser, chief officer of retail for Urban Outfitters. On a recent visit, skirts had been reduced from $79 to $29.99, blouses from $49 to $29.99, and men’s swimsuits from $39 to $5.
At her store in the posh Taluca Lake neighbourhood, Rose & Sage owner Soraya Ardakani handpicks each piece, mixing established designers with lesser-known local labels at lower price points. There are a few items by Michael Stars and Olivaceous on the higher end, but even their most expensive pieces are less than $200. Booties by Qupid are $43, blouses by Fun2Fun are $32, and sweaters by Jolie are just $24. The jewellery is a steal, too, with costume rings for $25 and classic silver and gold bracelets for $15. Every week the store offers its Surprise Me Friday sale: Shoppers might find that all long-sleeve items are 20% off, or everything in the store that’s red is reduced by 20%.
Los Angeles native Veronica Monroy-Ferrer began making miniskirts in her mother’s garage and selling them at the Fairfax swap meet back in 1996. At her shop on Beverly Boulevard, in the La Brea neighbourhood, Ferrer stocks her own designs and a handful of others, all for under $200. “I wanted women to be able to wear clothes that looked expensive without paying the price to look great,” she explains. Ferrer’s tie-waist maxi-dresses and form-fitting tank dresses can go from day to night and reflect the Southern California lifestyle. In the back of the store, something is always on sale for $25, $10 or even $5, and there’s often a 50%-off rack out front.
Manhattan Beach, Brentwood, Studio City, Century City, West Third, and another opening in Marina del Rey by end of 2015, with plans for more
William B launched in the 1980s and the line was carried by department stores like Barneys, Bloomingdale’s, and Neiman Marcus. In the late ’90s, a couple (who prefer to remain nameless) bought the company and a 42-foot RV, which they repurposed as a boutique on wheels. “The positive reaction to the lower price points inspired their decision to vertically integrate and try their hand at the retail game,” explains Kaitlyn Watsabaugh, whose title on her business card reads Generally Awesome. There are now six stores in the Los Angeles area, from Manhattan Beach to Studio City, and more in the works. “Our average price point is $62,” says Watsabaugh.