It doesn't take much searching to find trendy women's clothing at discount prices in Southern California. But unearthing cut-priced, cutting-edge menswear takes a bit of ingenuity.
Discount stores such as Monopoly and Half Off in Los Angeles, Max Mart in West Hollywood, Armani Wells in Studio City and Piller's in Eagle Rock sell everything from designer clothing and sportswear to hip street fashion for 50% to 75% below retail.
Some also carry great vintage clothing. Then there are those that dabble in well-tailored, yet lower-priced knock-offs.
The key to shopping these stores is to return often (about every third week), because the merchandise changes frequently.
For years, local fashion stylists kept Monopoly, on 3rd Street, a closely guarded secret. The reason? Owner Mikhail Vortman frequently bought close-outs from such European designers as Jean Paul Gaultier and Franco Moschino and sold them at thrift store prices.
As word got out, Vortman added such labels as Ozbek, Matsuda and Comme des Garcons to the merchandise mix. Even though the store's merchandise is only about 20% menswear, and the size you're looking for isn't always available, the bargains make the place worth shopping regularly: $150 Patrick Cox shoes for $10; a $700 Hugo Boss blazer for $120; $125 Gaultier stretch pants for $16. Secondhand designer clothing in great condition is priced even lower.
It's the same story at Armani Wells in Studio City, where designer bargains are mixed with great vintage finds. Suits and sport coats by Giorgio Armani, Gianni Versace, Hugo Boss and others sell for under $300, while slacks and shoes can usually be found for less than $50. The best part is that most prices are negotiable.
Designer labels are rare at Piller's. But the massive 20,000-square-foot Eagle Rock store, open only on weekends, does have incredible two- and three-for-the-price-of-one sales on Bugle Boy slacks, Point Zero shirts, B.U.M. Equipment sweat shirts and Robert Stock sweaters, all under $20. You can also find cotton and linen shirts ($29), linen shirt-jackets ($75) and socks (five for $10) all by Studio Tokyo; Ralph Lauren's RRL collection jeans ($19.90 each or two for $35), and blazers ($150) from Versace's V2 line and Hugo Boss.
The store recently received a large shipment of Italian leather shoes from To Boot, the upscale New York shoe store, and Kenneth Cole, both selling for as low as $30 in some cases.
Similar bargains can be found in a smaller setting at Half Off, where owner Victor Dillon stocks mostly close-out merchandise from local brands. Studio Tokyo linen, cotton and linen/silk shirts sell from $24 to $34 (versus $50 to $70 on the same items elsewhere), Lucky jeans retail for $44 (instead of $60), and Kikwear's retro knit shirts, regularly $39, start at $24.99.
If the collections of Jean Paul Gaultier, Dolce & Gabbana, Romeo Gigli, Comme des Garcons, Dries Van Noten and Dirk Bikkenberg are in your price range and taste level, you'll want to check out the bargains at Max Mart, the off-price offshoot of the trendy West Hollywood store Maxfield's.
Items by these well-known designers that didn't sell at the main store last season are marked down 40% to 70%. "It's an ideal way to buy a good suit for a lot less money. Especially if you're one of those people who isn't bothered about whether something is in or out of season," says Maxfield's Nadira Herbert.
Rick Pallack started out selling designer men's clothing and sportswear at swap-meet prices out of the trunk of his Dodge Challenger in 1973. Today his 2,000-square-foot store, which he opened in Sherman Oaks in 1981, is less mobile and carries only his brand--but it's infinitely easier to find.
"I go to the same factories in Europe that make clothing for all the top designers and I create my own collection," says the retailer-turned-designer. Pallack takes an additional 20% to 50% off during August.
One would be hard-pressed to call Lords a discounter. But if your tastes run to powder blue metallic fitted blazers, shiny satin shirts, skin-tight snake-printed leather pants and Lycra sport separates--the kinds of concert clothes worn by Lenny Kravitz, Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, Slash and Seal--this Melrose store is where you'll find them at scalper's prices. Hot young clothing labels--including John Bartlett, So, Roger Dack, Destroy by John Richmond and Henry Duarte--worn by those on the rock-star circuit are all well-represented here.
"People are always looking for things they see on stage but can never find in the stores," says Lords owner Nabeel A. Jabar. He sells his own versions of Dolce & Gabbana and Comme des Garcons silk and satin shirts for $195 to $295 instead of the $400 to $500 designer price tag.
"We also have a lot of Edwardian-looking suede frock coats for $500 that would normally retail for $2,000. And we have wool, velvet and tapestry slacks like those from Gaultier for $229 to $295 instead of $400 to $700," he says.
At X-Large in Los Angeles, the fashion message isn't directed at the Neiman Marcus shopper but rather former hip-hop and club kids looking to make a little more updated style statement. Here, old-time tennis labels such as Fred Perry and Lacoste--both making a comeback on high school campuses--sell alongside oversized work wear by Car Heart at greatly reduced prices. You won't find anything by Stussy or Mossimo, but you will get a great Ben Davis long-sleeve cotton shirt for under $25.
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12404 Ventura Blvd.
Open Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-
6 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
1806 N. Vermont Ave.
Open Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-
8 p.m.; Sunday, noon-6 p.m.
7526 Melrose Ave.
Open Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-
8 p.m.; Sunday, noon-6 p.m.
9091 Santa Monica Blvd.
11 a.m.-6 p.m.
8421 W. 3rd St.
Open Monday-Wednesday and Friday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; Thursday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m; Saturday, 1 p.m.-6 p.m.
4554 Sherman Oaks Ave.
Open Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-
8 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
1800 Colorado Blvd.
Open Friday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; Sunday, noon-5 p.m.
1768 N. Vermont Ave.
Open Monday-Saturday, noon-
7 p.m.; Sunday, noon-6 p.m.