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FASHION : Fanny Packs

There’s a stylish way to free up your hands this summer. Wear a fanny pack. Originally designed for hikers and downhill skiers, the small pouch attached to its own belt is turning up all over town. Urbanites are strapping them around their waists, stashing life’s little essentials inside: keys, wallets, sunglasses, a tube of suntan lotion.

And although it’s considered hip to wear the pack over a hip or tummy, it’s still called a fanny pack most of the time.

Some sporting-goods stores carry as many as 30 different styles, all priced under $20 and usually made in heavy-duty synthetics, such as water-resistant nylon.

Despite the funky look of the available fluorescent packs, they’re actually quite functional. According to Chris Inagaki, manager of Front-runners in Brentwood, they glow in the dark, a nice feature for nighttime athletes.

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Leather packs look chic in the same way leather jackets do, but they’re harder to find. Most owners got theirs in other countries (such as Australia) or in an offbeat place like a swap meet, the Venice boardwalk or the Downtown garment district. (Go Sport in Century City does stock a $35 model made by Jan Sport.)

Hikers and skiers probably snicker at designer fanny packs. But on the streets of Los Angeles, a pouch covered in studs or decorated with fake leopard seems right at home. And now that fanny packs are out of the woods, there’s no telling how gussied up they could get.

At Van Buren, the fashion design company in North Hollywood, Maggie Barry and partner Stephen Walker are making “artsy fanny pouches” with African masks, Oriental motifs or motorcycle zippers and nickel-size studs. Like their less-ornate brethren, these packs can substitute for pockets or purses. They will hit the stores later this year and retail for about $80 to $120.


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