By Susan Carpenter
Los Angeles Times
November 27, 2011
H&M and other big-box retailers are obvious go-tos for fast fashion. But they aren't the only stores in town for shoppers seeking that little black dress in lace or a cashmere sweater that won't break the bank. Many of L.A.'s independent boutiques offer a curated selection of dresses, sweaters, pants and accessories in a more intimate environment with attentive service.
Below we look at five of those boutiques, with current styles and prices that frequently average less than $100.
The owner of Lady in Eagle Rock refers to her shop's arrangements of print dresses, tunics and other garments as "closets," rather than racks. The long, open closet that runs along one side of the store is an idea that was inspired by the years she worked as an assistant manager at Trina Turk on 3rd Street before deciding to strike out on her own.
"I wanted it to have a small, intimate boutique feel without the high price tag, and I wanted it to feel like you were in someone's closet," said Camille De Soto, who opened her shop 41/2 years ago along a busy stretch of Eagle Rock Boulevard.
With the shop's chocolate brown walls and cabinetry, Lady has the chic and warm ambience of a well-decorated home.
Each of its "closets" is its own color statement. Fabrics with patterns that are predominantly gray are paired with complementary colors such as black and warm brown with pops of red, green and blue. Burnt orange dresses are shown with brown sweaters and tan boots. Above the hangers of cowl-neck dresses and pajama jackets are pleather handbags that sell for less than $80. Anchored below are eco-suede heels and boots, priced for less than $50.
Like many small-boutique owners, De Soto doesn't follow trends slavishly.
"I just go with what I love and what I think women will like that's fun, trendy, yet timeless and a little bit vintage, a little bit modern," said De Soto, whose personal style is representative of what she sells. On a recent Tuesday, she was wearing a pair of faux suede ankle boots and an equestrian print navy blue dress topped with a striped red sweater from Old Navy. "I like mixing and matching vintage and new and finding stuff that looks more expensive than it actually is."
For fall, that includes a green, mosaic-print dress with dolman sleeves by her most popular brand, Viereck, for $118; a feminine T-shirt with a longer cut and wider sleeve from the brand LA Made, for $52; and Blank brand skinny jeans for $78. Many of the store's pieces are designed by Angelenos and cost less than $100, De Soto said, with the exception of some dress lines that go as high as $150.
4974 Eagle Rock Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 254-6500.
Sara Schifrin has dressed clients for the Emmys with some of the sleek and chic offerings in her Pico Boulevard boutique. But Schifrin prefers to dress the "everyday Southern California woman," she said.
Cashmere cardigans, skinny jeans, handbags and jewelry are among the top sellers at this elegant and airy shop where prices average $60 per item and rarely exceed $300, a price Schifrin describes as the "psychological cutoff. After $300, you start thinking, 'Five hundred dollars, it's half of a thousand.'"
Though her cashmeres are, admittedly, on the pricier side, selling for $220 to $368 a pop, Schifrin said cashmere prices have become a lot more reasonable than they once were. Her cashmeres are made by the L.A. brands Velvet and 360 Cashmere. Her handbags are mostly vegan leather, and sell for less than $50, including a leaf green clutch for $28 and a rust-colored purse for $42. Sequin has been in business for 10 years. It started in Santa Monica but moved to its present location in early 2009. Schifrin's history as a clothier dates back to the '80s, when she ran a similar boutique on Montana Avenue called Sara. She said she still has some of the same customers — even some of the same employees — from her earliest days as a boutique owner.
With its high beam ceilings, sisal carpet and chandeliers, Sequin's décor is indicative of an aesthetic that's similar to stores like Anthropologie, and it sells well-made pieces and trendy items — up to a point. A mega-trend like skinny jeans is represented with the L.A. line, Just USA, which Sequin sells for $58 per pair. For a flash-in-the-pan trend like hair feathers, however, shoppers will need to go elsewhere.
"I like the reality of how people are spending money these days, finding cheap buys instead of feeling like they need to spend a lot of money to feel happy or look good," said Schifrin, 56, adding that she wears the same thing every day: black leggings topped with a black tank under a sheer, black, long-sleeved T-shirt. Sequin sells the tank, T-shirt and leggings for $12, $28 and $32, respectively. "I think it's more realistic. It's nice to see people embrace that."
11732 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 473-0124.
Melrose was at one time the place to go for cheap and chic fashion. The celebrated L.A. strip has lost some of its luster in recent years, but there are some exceptions, including the hip, Zen-like boutique Paper Doll. Muted shades are the shop's M.O., in its decor and its fashion offerings.
This spacious boutique is dotted with blond, wooden 4-by-4 posts that hold up racks of dresses and slacks and earthy yet feminine blouses in intriguing shapes and pleasing textures, including a three-quarter-sleeve gray T-shirt with chiffon trim for $37, a lightweight Navajo sweater with an open front for $44 and a floral kimono-style pajama jacket for $33.
Owners Ashley and Daniel Chung opened Paper Doll six years ago as an extension to Chantell, their more youth-oriented boutique across the street that's been in business since 1996.
"My customers were evolving with me," said Ashley Chung, adding that many of her customers have been coming to her for more than 10 years. A customer who was shopping on a recent Wednesday proved her point. "She's here with her 6-year-old, but she's been shopping with me since she was in her 20s."
Chung's favorite colors are taupe, gray and mauve, all of which are reflected in offerings that are oriented around basics but include a few novelties, such as fur vests. Prices start at $12 for tanks and range from $30 to $50 for pants and $25 to $75 for vegan leather handbags.
"A lot of my customers wear premium jeans and expensive leather jackets," Chung said. "They want to change what goes with them."
7312 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 857-6647.
Each season, there are certain must-haves. This fall, many of us are clamoring for fur vests, candy-colored jeggings and cashmere-blend sweaters that at Anat B cost $140, $49 and $50, respectively.
Anat B has three locations, which aren't focused so much on ambience as much as on a shopping experience that is friendly and easy to navigate. Its Santa Monica shop, for example, is well organized, with tops, pants and dresses arranged by size on uncrowded racks that leave enough room for shoppers to actually move the hangers.
Anat B was founded by Anat Broslavski, who opened her first eponymous boutique six years ago in Beverly Hills. She describes her clientele as ages 17 to 70 and her target price as $50 to $100 per item.
At Anat B, a beautiful shirt or jacket often costs $50, including the well-constructed, motorcycle-style jacket from the brand Beulah that feels thick like real leather but is, in fact, pleather.
What separates Anat B from other boutiques that operate at this price point is Broslavski's attention to the tactile. Whether it's a $100 chiffon wrap dress or a $25 T-shirt, she makes an effort to select fabrics that don't feel as inexpensive as the price tag would indicate. Her merchandise, which is primarily from L.A. designers, is updated weekly.
271 S. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills, (310) 385-7917; 1230 Montana Ave., No. 101, Santa Monica, (310) 319-3400; Fashion Square Mall, 14006 Riverside Drive, No. 120, Sherman Oaks. (818) 981-1717.
Monrovia's Suo Boutique benefits from its location on a busy street directly across from a strip mall anchored by Marshall's. But it's what's inside this small shop with exposed brick walls that keeps it bustling. On a recent Tuesday afternoon, the store was abuzz with young and not-so-young women, abiding, apparently, by the gilt-framed poster behind the register: "Your husband called. He said buy anything you want."
At Suo, buying anything you want doesn't cost that much. A schoolteacher from nearby Duarte spent $133.02 buying five items, including a bird print chiffon wrap, an embroidered kaftan, a belted green sweater with rosette corsage, a satin slit inset jersey top and a silk blouse. "I just needed to update my wardrobe," said the woman, who was headed to Marshalls afterward. "I'll go to the mall, but I don't have a lot of favorite stores lately."
Suo, in business 121/2 years and with two locations, was started by Jeanne Herrera and her sisters. "Our shopper wants good quality for her money," said Herrera, who carries many of the same L.A. brands as other boutiques, including Miss Me denim and Ark & Co. silk print blouses.
Denim runs from $32 to $92. Blouses average $29, according to Herrera, who arranges clothes by color palette on circular racks that are topped with complementary handbags and scarves. Faux-leather handbags are among the shop's bestsellers, usually selling for about $50. A burnt orange clutch cost $24; a bright green handbag, $48.
Herrera attributes her boutiques' success to weekly merchandise updates, loyal customers and "selective buying."
601 W. Huntington Drive, Monrovia; (626) 305-9440. 100 Citadel Drive, Suite 208, Los Angeles; (323) 887-3817.
Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times