Baby hipsters and BFFs Kaylee Vega and Madi Spadaro, both 13 and from Redondo Beach, are navigating the South Bay Galleria in Torrance with shark-like aggression. They've been saving pocket money all summer, and now, just weeks before school starts at the end of August, they're hitting the mall, determined to put together the most fabulous possible wardrobe for fall 2012. After all, no one wants to start the new semester looking "awkward" (Vega and Spadaro's word du jour).
All across Southern California teens have been making the same pilgrimmage this month. Students in the
They skid to a halt by a stand selling
Next door is Hot Topic, a chain of pop-culture inspired boutiques (more than 600 across the nation) geared specifically towards fashion rebels and underground music fans, although more laid-back kids often like to stop in for accessories. Vega and Spadaro head straight for the rubber bracelet display, oohing and aahing over one that has "BESTIES" printed on it in capital letters. Turmoil ensues when they spot a unicorn backpack, whose attached hood has a unicorn's horn projecting from it. More squeals when they spot the black and white backpack that mimics a skunk. Squeals explode into piercing screams when Kaylee's half sister Peyton Bishop surprises them in the store. Bishop's mom and dad are in the food hall, and she convinced them to let her shop with Vega and Spadaro for a half hour or so.
Bishop, a 5-foot-9 15-year-old who dreams of becoming a model, freezes — she's just spotted something major. "Oh my god Pikachu!" A huge Pokémon fan, she sprints over to the Pikachu backpacks. "This is like Peyton's favorite store," explains Spadaro. She and Vega think Hot Topic is OK, but they're bigger fans of the more chilled out fashions at PacSun and Tilly's. Tilly's is Spadaro's favorite store, selling looks by Vans,
Regardless of whether you're a PacSun beach hipster, a Tilly's skater girl or a Hot Topic heavy metal chick, there are some things that transcend all teen fashion borders for
But what about back to school fashion fails? Tutus are out, ribboned corsets are a "hell no" ("I wore those in fifth grade," says Peyton), and there's continuing controversy about skulls. Spadaro thinks skulls are super awkward, and Vega agrees ("they scare me.") But Bishop is a fan. "I'm an oddball," she explains. "I don't want to blend in with the everyday crowd." The rift between the girls is heightened when Vega and Spadaro spot a series of One Direction tees at the back of the store. One Direction, in case you haven't heard, is pretty much the biggest boy band in the world right now, kind of like five British-Irish Justin Biebers singing about teen romance. Bishop could care less. "I don't like One Direction, I like heavy metal," she shrugs. "And
Hot Topic fully mined, the girls head across the way to Tilly's, where they are met by walls upon walls of Jansport backpacks. Spadaro loves the tie-dye and neon print bags; Vega's into the ethnic prints, while Peyton makes a beeline for the "Stach Straws," drinking straws with mustaches attached at the top. She gets a kick out of the longboard skateboards on display too. "Longboards are the perfect paradise of surfing on the ground," she coos. Vega and Spadaro browse the selection of Soda shoes — "they're like Toms but way less expensive" — before hopping back across the way to Spencer's, which sells Pikachu and Domo gear alongside caps and tees emblazoned with distinctly R-Rated frathouse type sentiments. "I feel really awkward in here," says Vega. "Can we leave please, before I am scarred?"
Vega wants to visit PacSun, but is horrified to lean that the SouthBay Galleria no longer has one. A few days later we send her photos of some of PacSun's latest back to school fashions, a pair of flower print skinny jeans, an ethnic print black and cream sweater, and some distressed skinny jeans in black. Vega's response, sent via text message, is immediate and confident. "i loved the flower pants they're my fave i wouldnt wear the sweater only bcz it lacks awesome colors but its definity cute i luve the ethnic print its totally in so is floral print," she wrote. With just days left before school starts, another visit to the mall, she says, may be in order.