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Designer outlet shopping in Los Angeles
YOU DON'T have to drive 200 miles for great outlet shopping. Sure, Cabazon and Camarillo have their mallish charms. But Trina Turk, Kitson and half a dozen more outlets dwell right here in our neighborhoods, offering the same steep discounts and something closer to a boutique experience. Some of these outlets are in old warehouses and factory spaces, now filled with scores of reasonable designer dresses, shoes and bags. Other storefronts looked so much like regular boutiques -- one even had a Robertson Boulevard address -- that it felt like we'd have to pay full price. Until we saw the price tag, that is. The best discovery of all -- Trina Turk -- turned up in an industrial park in Alhambra, hidden behind a barred iron gate (no photographers allowed inside), where the merch was half-off wholesale. Nice. And think of how much we saved on gas.
Trina Turk Outlet
You wouldn't expect to find Turk's colorful, midcentury-inspired offerings in the middle of an industrial park. But this small store, attached to the company headquarters, is a serious style score. The pretty, modern space houses dresses, tops, blazers and pants from Resort 2007 and earlier collections at an astounding 50% off wholesale. Some pieces are simple -- lots of plain structured suiting separates for $60. But Turk's trademark pop prints are still abundant. We found a blue and white floral halter dress for $60. Original prices aren't listed, but fans of Turk know her wares can run up to $400. Another score was a vintage turquoise maxi dress with geometric cutouts, a mere $50. Boxes of even cheaper gear littered the aisles, including pink-and-brown sheer chiffon flutter tops for $25 and, inexplicably, a crate of men's Haviana flip-flops for $5 each and Delman flats for $60. A range of sizes is featured, fitting rooms are comfortable and all sales are final. But you may want to keep this outlet on the down-low -- Turk and her minions aren't big on publicizing the stellar deals to be found here. 3025 W. Mission Road. (626) 458-7768, Ext. 25. Noon to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and second Saturday of each month.
For 40 years, denim doyennes have scored major deals on designer dungarees from this blink-and-you'll-miss-it discounter. Rack upon rack upon rack house jeans in every wash, cut, color and size from Blue Cult, Joe's, J Brand, Genetic, Hudson and Chip & Pepper -- most less than $100. The store lacks any and all glamour but is organized impeccably, making it easy to sift through thousands of denim choices for men and women. The staff has fit down to a science and is eager to help find the perfect pair. We found a shredded-hem denim miniskirt from Sacred Blue for a paltry $30, Blue Cult denim jackets for the same price and a pair of pool blue Hudson bell bottoms for $70. All sales are final, but rumor has it that Maria's does a mean hem for $10, making it that much easier to find your fit. Another secret: There's a discount for those who pay cash. 134 E. Valley Blvd. (626) 281-0080. 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Zepherine Designer Apparel Showroom
If you're a fan of Inago, the sunny 3rd Street boutique, this is an address to save. Zepherine is the boutique's warehouse outlet, and the vaulted space is packed rack-to-rack with current and past season merchandise from L.A. favorites (Rami Kashou, Rozae Nichols, Grey Ant, Miguelina) and some big names (Vivienne Westwood, Tibi, Alexander Wang). The prices aren't spectacular -- the outlet shaves an additional 10% to 25% off the last sale price, and all sales are final. But the selection is huge (new merchandise usually arrives on Thursday), the size range is decent and the staff helpful. We were tempted by one of the many jersey dresses by Issa, the British fashion darling ($224, down from $525), and to be honest, a little dismayed to find the classic Carlos Falchi bag we bought at Fred Segal not so long ago ($246, down from $587). Not the best deals ever, but then, we didn't have to share a dressing room, and that's worth a few bucks. 9500B Jefferson Blvd., Culver City; (310) 287-0687. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.
This 8-year-old off-price boutique is a Culver City favorite for good reason: current and last season looks from Stella McCartney, Peter Som, Sue Stemp and Missoni under the same roof as J Brand jeans, Generra sundresses and enough accessories to fill a mall kiosk. Owner Samira Arkel sources pieces from posh boutiques all over the country and slashes prices 50% to 80% off retail. Sizes run the gamut but are more plentiful at the higher and lower ends. Among the well-organized stock, we found a pair of black brocade Lanvin flats with art deco crystal detailing ($282, from $941), a Norma Kamali for Everlast black fringe flapper dress ($189, from $465) and a '70s-style watercolor print blouson dress by Zac Posen ($259, from $1,600). When you need a break from sifting through $9 earrings and $18 cocktail rings, plush velvet couches and the latest fashion glossies await. 8712 Washington Blvd., Culver City. (310) 287-2333. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. www.shoplastchance.com.
The Circle Indie Outlet
Tucked between a record store and yoga studio is this quaint shop, which carries current season samples and overruns from independent L.A. labels at 40% to 80% off retail. Expect to find pieces from Grey Ant, Jenny Han and Geren Ford in sporadic sizes. This place is bursting at the seams with looks from little-known boutique favorites that you wouldn't expect to see at an outlet store. There's only room for one shopper in between some of the racks, but patience pays off. Among items from Figment, Farron Elizabeth and Myne was a sheer blue cotton ruffle dress by Cameo ($85 from $190) and a silk racerback mini-sheath from Kate and Kass ($80 from $242), an emerging line carried at Barneys New York and Tracey Ross. But the mother lode was a selection of $150 leather sandals from Eastside favorite L.D. Tuttle, priced the same as the ones currently in Urban Outfitters. Come on Saturdays for the best selection of new arrivals. 2395 Glendale Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 665-5336. Noon to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.
Dave Berger & Sons Designer Shoes
This gritty industrial warehouse isn't exactly the shoe department at Nordstrom. The floors are concrete, air conditioning is nil and there's a strange odor in the air. But these irritations seem trivial when you see the discounted Prada, Givenchy and Vera Wang. The space is filled with more than 7,200 pairs of boutique-sourced shoes 65% below retail: Hollywould, Cole Haan, Bettye Mueller, Yves Saint Laurent, Stuart Weitzman, Rafe, Pedro Garcia, Moschino, Pucci and Beverly Feldman, in sizes that run the standard 5 to 12 spectrum depending on availability. But not everything here is a gem. Men's stock consists mostly of the sort of python skin, pointed-toe slip-ons suited to a pimp. But those white Florsheim comfort-padded loafers ($38) might just be nerdy enough to be cool. 403 E. Washington Blvd., Los Angeles. (213) 749-9964. 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. 8 a.m. to noon Saturday (assuming Joe Berger isn't taking his Rhodesian Ridgeback to a dog show. Call first.).
Among the button, bead and fabric sellers of the Garment District lies Morrie's, a 46-year-old haunt where designer goods are priced to move. While we shopped, a leaking pipe dripped on our head. Shortly after, an acid-wash denim jacket by Blue Cult beckoned ($10, from $196) and we forgave the poor plumbing. The racks are plentiful, and you'd better come ready to dig. But excavate, and ye shall find: a white Burberry miniskirt ($85, from $340), Marc by Marc Jacobs silk blouses, Diane von Furstenberg printed dresses and Ella Moss halter tops. A corner devoted to St. John knits held a glimmering gold jacket ($479, from $1,495) and simple cream sheath ($525, from $1,195), perfect for mother of the bride. 934 S. Maple Ave., Los Angeles. (213) 623-3083. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Who knew that just blocks from Kitson's paparazzi-surrounded storefront sits a discount branch? The place feels like a garage sale -- if Paris or Lindsay were cleaning out their garages: gifty mugs, overpriced rhinestone picture frames, a marijuana-themed board game. Help. As far as fashion goes, the deals aren't spectacular -- a small monogram L.A.M.B. satchel, still $337, and Member's Only leather vests, $346. Graphic tees, trucker hats and flashy hoodies read like a roster of tabloid trends past. 315 S. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles. No phone. 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.
The off-price version of Tommy Perse's quintessential L.A. store has moved away from the flashbulbs of Robertson Boulevard to a small Melrose Avenue storefront. But the low-key location has no bearing on the major designer names to be found here. Yohji Yamamoto, Rick Owens, Thomas Wylde, Chanel, YSL, Stella McCartney and more are all priced up to 65% off retail. For women, you'll find Owens' suede jacket ($1,100, from $2,300), the full line of Dries van Noten, and Prada bags (from $300 to $600). Men will enjoy swank suits from YSL, Prada, Lanvin, Dior and Comme des Garçons (from $600 to $2,000), in addition to dress shirts, shoes and other men's furnishings. 8250 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood; (310) 275-7007. Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Directly across the street from Beverly Center lies a den of discounted wearables you'd find on Rodeo Drive. It's a little Euro: a massive selection of D&G, Missoni and Roberto Cavalli for man, woman and child. The beautifully appointed store doesn't feel like an outlet with mahogany, glass and stainless steel accents. Even the snooty salespeople transported us to a much different locale. But the prices, 80% off retail, transported us back to the off-price U.S.A. Missoni dresses in signature woven zigzag were just $425, a major step down from a retail price of more than $1,500. Crisp solid dress shirts from Armani were $170, $65 less than retail. 8601 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 967-0042. 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Ratings: *****: A must-see; ****: Worth checking out; ***: Take it or leave it; **: In a pinch; *: Not if you're desperate