Itinerary: High Fashion

The Los Angeles area has the largest garment industry in the nation--seriously, it’s bigger than New York’s--employing more than 100,000 people.

In honor of Calvin Klein’s 56th birthday today--really, Cal, you don’t look a day over 40--explore the world of Los Angeles fashion, from the fabric shops downtown to the haute couture of Rodeo Drive, and all the steps in-between.


It all starts with concept--so begin at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (919 S. Grand Ave., downtown Los Angeles. [213] 624-1200), where about 3,000 students are studying to bring you tomorrow’s looks.


The 30-year-old school moved into a new building about five years ago with a gallery on the ground floor. Now showing, Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m., through Dec. 10: The wild, woolly and wonderful shoes of Andrea Pfister. The 375 shoes--not in pairs, obviously--come from the designer’s personal collection and a museum in France dedicated entirely to shoes. Celebrities from Madonna to Cher have donned his footwear.

Saturday Morning

The Fashion District--extending roughly from Broadway and 6th Street to San Pedro and 16th streets in downtown Los Angeles--is the soul of the city’s garment industry. From the small fabric stores that line the streets, to the sewing shops that fill the warehouses, to the giant wholesale market at the California Mart, this is where fashion, literally, comes together.

Saturday mornings in the area bustle with ethnically diverse shoppers looking for dress fabric, notions or decorating cloth. Start with an mid-morning stroll down Maple Street south from 8th Street to get a sense of the place, perhaps poking in to Michael Levine’s (920 S. Maple., [213] 622-6259. Open Saturdays, 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.; Sundays, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.), the fabric palace is so big it requires two buildings.


Walk east up Olympic Boulevard to the entrance of the California Mart Building. Here at 10 a.m., 11 a.m. and noon, a Trolley Tour departs for a free 45-minute trip around the district. (Tours run Saturdays through Dec. 26. Call [213] 488-1153 for reservations.) Or, if you want to plan your own route, you can get a map off the Internet:

Saturday Afternoon

Hungry yet? Everyone always raves about the original Chinese chicken salad at New Moon (102 W. 9th St. [213] 624-0186), so you might gather your strength there for the bargain-hunting ahead.

Pop back over to the California Mart, which has the first of its holiday-season sales Saturday from 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m. (Others are Saturdays through Dec. 19. $1 admission. Call first to confirm: [213] 630-3631.) About 70 of the exhibitors in the mart, including DKNY, Laundry and Rampage, will be selling their stuff for half off retail price. Think of it as a high-end swap meet.


If your head isn’t spinning by this point, you could also try out the Cooper Building (860 S. Los Angeles St., [213] 622-1139. Mondays.-Saturdays, 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; Sundays, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.), which has four floors of discount retail stores, including outlets for Guess and Bloomingdale’s.


Try some self-induced sticker shock and head over to Rodeo Drive to see where all that designer attire ends up. Window-shop--or enter, if you dare--at the upscale boutiques such as Giorgio Armani, Yves St. Laurent and Chanel.

Dine among the fashionable, too, at Barney Greengrass, the rooftop restaurant perched above Barney’s New York (9570 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills. Open until 6 p.m. on Sundays. [310] 276-4400.).