Shopping: Altadena Works backpacks and carry-alls


Altadena Works might sound like a San Gabriel Valley community job center, but it’s actually a new line of totes and backpacks made in California.

Based in L.A., Altadena Works is a collaboration between Ricky Swallow, an artist, and Ryan Conder, owner of the men’s boutique South Willard. Swallow, a sculptor and painter, collects vintage outdoor gear, much of it American-made, from brands such as San Diego’s Gregory Mountain Products and Colorado’s now-defunct Alpine Designs. He discovered that Conder shared an appreciation for the gear’s design and construction, which are highly coveted in Japan but not as much here.

“Ryan and I started to also wonder why so few of these types of products were made in California anymore,” Swallow says.

The two decided on the name Altadena Works because the foothill city near Pasadena represented a throwback to the heyday of California’s influence on both modern design and outdoor lifestyles.

“I like what Altadena represents geographically as a place situated with such close proximity to the city and to nature — right up against the foothills,” Swallow says. “We both fantasized about living in one of the Gregory Ain tract houses there,” referring to the late L.A.-based architect’s midcentury modern homes built in the mid-1940s.

Altadena Works’ packs are modeled after duck canvas backpacks from the 1970s from brands such as Eastpack, featuring leather zipper pulls, handles and reinforced bottoms. Altadena Works’ bags use high-grade leather from Horween, a Chicago family-operated tannery. Local artisans, who have collectively made bags for more than 30 years, construct the backpacks.

The teardrop-shaped daypack ($225) with a diagonal zipper resembles those book bags you once might have used to lug textbooks. Now you’re probably lugging a laptop computer and an MP3 player. The weekend rucksack ($275), with nylon-cord cinch top and plastic buckles, resembles a hiker’s backpack, especially when the extra side pockets ($60) are strapped on. Both backpacks come in navy or black water-repellant canvas highlighted with colored leather in acorn, oak, brown, black, slate blue or yellow.

For a tote, Altadena Works features a unisex carryall ($338) crafted entirely from Horween’s water- and stain-resistant Chromexal leather. Swallow and Conder consider the tote the ultimate farmer’s market bag. The bag stands upright and is easily toted by hand or worn over the shoulder. Celery stalks or other market produce — or a picnic lunch — go into the main compartment, while side pockets can fit a bottle of wine or olive oil.

“We were both feeling like Sherpas at the Hollywood Farmers Market, struggling with all sorts of canvas and semi-disposable options,” Swallow says.

“Being in L.A. and driving so much, the hold-all is something of a second trunk for me,” he adds.

Available at South Willard, 8038 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles. (323) 653-6153. Noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday; noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.;


Beauty Bus Sunday, April 25: Beauty Bus Foundation, which provides in-home beauty treatments to chronically ill people, hosts its Beauty Drive fundraiser, sponsored by OPI. The event includes complimentary beauty treatments — makeup and manicures, healthy hair classes, silent auction (one prize is lunch with Amber Valletta), brunch with cocktails and a hair show, featuring the work of Janine Jarman, a contestant on Bravo’s “Shear Genius.” Tickets are $125 at the door or online.

Mark for Events, 9320 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 287-1272. 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Barbara Tfank Trunk Show Tuesday and Wednesday: Tfank, an L.A.-based designer who shows at New York Fashion Week, hosts a trunk show at Neiman Marcus. Meet Tfank and preview her fall 2010 collection featuring her signature luxurious fabrics and original prints, including florals. Prices begin at $1,000.

9700 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills. (310) 550-5900. 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Christian Louboutin Wednesday: Christian Louboutin is making an in-store appearance at his signature boutique on Robertson. The French shoe maestro will be greeting the faithful and signing heels. New spring Louboutins include the 1940s-style embellished Alta Rita slingback ($1,795) and the Discolilou platform sandal in lizard ($1,975).

650 N. Robertson Blvd., West Hollywood. (310) 247-9300. 4 to 7 p.m.

Ladies Night Out in Magnolia Park Friday: A store-to-store party on Burbank’s Magnolia Boulevard, with a portion of proceeds going to benefit the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life and the nonprofit Purses and Love, which provides children with purses filled with stuff moms need to give to their mothers on Mother’s Day. Stores include 1928 Jewelry Company Outlet, 33 Rooms, 34 Fourteen, Encore Nouveau, Magnolia Commons and Mindfulnest. There will be gifts, prizes, samples, fashion shows, makeovers, refreshments and more. Admission is free.

3300 and 3400 blocks of Magnolia Boulevard, Burbank. 6 to 9 p.m.

Sample sale

Custo Barcelona and MEK Denim Warehouse Sale Friday through Sunday, May 2: Sample-sale hunters head to the L.A. Convention Center. Save up to 80% on Custo Barcelona’s colorful prints for women and MEK Denim jeans, T-shirts and polo shirts for men and women; prices range from $19 to $75. Major credit cards accepted. RSVP at

Los Angeles Convention Center ( Concourse Hall), 1201 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles. Noon to 8 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.