Returning to the City of Angels

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James Perse on Melrose embodies California cool.

I had not been to Los Angeles for quite some time, so it seemed high time to return. In the past, I would station myself in Bel Air or Beverly Hills, but in searching for a different sort of L.A. experience I decided to rent a small house in Topanga Canyon. I had never been; and I had no idea how beautiful it would be. The house was almost at the very top of the canyon and had views for days. The weather was its usual unpredictable self, and while it was cool and grey on the Pacific Coast Highway it was bright and sunny once we got up to the house. And the house was higher than the fog and clouds that rolled in from the ocean. Perfection.

I don’t think that Topanga Canyon has changed a whole lot since the ’60s and ’70s — when it was hippie heaven. There are more houses now, but not too many more. A small cluster of shops on either side of the road through the canyon resembles a village, with a few restaurants, lots of hiking trails and a large state park. My Westie Aggie came along, and she was in heaven.

Looking Out Over The Santa Monica MountainsLooking out over the Santa Monica Mountains.

L.A. offers a different kind of shopping experience. The city is very spread out. Retail stores reflect the tastes of their specific neighborhood. Residents of Topanga might dress and live differently than those of Pacific Palisades or Beverly Hills. I decided to stay away from the usual haunts like Beverly Hills and instead visit some of my favorite places — and discover some new spaces. Because the trip was partly for Aggie’s benefit, visiting museums would not be on the itinerary.

The first afternoon we took some walks on the property and along our road. The air was pure; and nature was everywhere. We had been warned to be on the lookout for eagles and coyotes, especially with the dog in tow. There are plenty of predators in West Hollywood and Beverly Hills, too, ahem.

Get The Topanga Look
Get the Topanga look at the Topanga Creek General Store.

On the way to our house, we had stopped at the largest market in town, Topanga Creek General Store. The next morning we headed back down to the village to do some exploring. There were several clothing stores filled with head to toe boho looks, some casual restaurants, and a gourmet market with a wide selection of specialty cheeses.

Topanga Home Grown, 120 S. Topanga Canyon Boulevard

A Small SHopping Mall in Topanga
A small shopping mall.

Across the street next to the General Store is a miniature mall with a hat and motorcycle store. The mall is also the home to a restaurant, a tile store, a plant shop and other small businesses. There are many tables and chairs for patrons to lounge.

Busto and Sun, Topanga Center, 115 South Topanga Canyon Boulevard

An Aromatherapy Outpost In Topanga
An aromatherapy outpost in Topanga.

Down Route 27, a small building attached to a rustic food market sells custom aromatherapy products and offers beauty treatments and massages. And in July, there is a two-day Reggae festival.

One Love Beauty, 415 South Topanga Canyon Boulevard

Hidden Treasures is Packed Full Of Finds
Hidden Treasures is packed full of finds.

There is also a well known vintage shop called Hidden Treasures where you will find many rooms filled with not-so-expensive vintage clothing, denim, jewelry, decorative objects, and (outside) things for your garden and lawn. It’s all displayed with a sense of humor.

Hidden Treasures, 155 South Topanga Canyon Boulevard

The Clouds Roll Up Topanga Canyon
The clouds roll up Topanga Canyon.

The next morning we headed down the canyon towards Malibu. Again, another part of L.A. that I have not explored for many years. As we descended, the temperature really dropped. The clouds/fog were wafting up the canyon. It was about a 20- to 25-minute drive back to the PCH and reality.

When A Furniture Store Goes Arty
When a furniture store goes arty.

Malibu has sprouted two “shopping centers” — the smaller one being the Malibu Lumber Yard. Two of the stores belong to a father/son team who are noted purveyors of taste and style. This display is part of the James Perse furniture collection. There is also a store with his clothing and many other products. If you didn’t already know, his father is Tommy Perse, the creator of Maxfield — an arbiter of taste in LA since 1969.

James Perse Furniture, 3939 Cross Creek Road

The Sleek Malibu Maxfield Store
The sleek Malibu Maxfield store.

The Maxfield in Malibu is small compared to its Melrose flagship. But it is full of the brands people want. Tommy is an excelent merchant and mixes Chanel and YSL with all sorts of streetwear. There is a small selection of vintage picks too, like the big square clock (on the left). There are other contemporary stores as well as a wine tasting space in the yard.

Maxfield, 3939 Cross Creek Road

Relaxed Clothing in Ron Herman in Malibu
Relaxed clothing at Ron Herman.

Another bastion of L.A. style, Ron Herman, has a small boutique across the street in the Malibu Country Mart. This outpost showcases contemporary designers and carries a lot of very casual and denim looks.

Ron Herman, 3900 Cross Creek Road

Shopping Wine in Hand
Shopping with wine in hand at Fred Segal.

Fred Segal has a boutique nearby. It too is fairly small. There is a very small cafe in the store and customers like to shop while they enjoy refreshments. The Fred Segal brand was sold many years ago, and has since been resold several times. Fred Segal started selling denim and jeans in 1961, and created an iconic business. He has been called the creator of California cool. The business lost some of its shine, but hopefully the new owners will keep up the wow factor. The clothing covers all categories for men and women, steering away from designer. There are lots of accessories, too. Ron Herman and Fred Segal have a closely intertwined history. More about that in a moment.

Fred Segal, 3822 Cross Creek Road

Clothing and Decor From Around the World in Malibu
Clothing and decor from around the world at Res Ipsa.

Res Ipsa has stores all over the country. Based in Marrakesh, the boutique is stuffed with clothing and accessories for men and women, as well as lots of things for the home. It’s a mini-bazaar and offers very interesting browsing. The merchandise is colorful and well made.

Res Ipsa, 3862 Cross Creek Road

Clothing and Vintage Finds In LA
Clothing and vintage finds at Surfing Cowboys.

Surfing Cowboys is another fun local store. This is a beach vibe store that offers a little of everything. You will find clothing and collectibles, including vintage surfboards, mid-century furniture, vintage photos, publications and funky decor. It is a super fun store, with distinct Malibu vibes. There are many other boutiques in these complexes, with LA brands mixing with brands from all over the map.

Surfing Cowboys, 3844 Cross Creek Road

The View at The Inn Of The Seventh Ray
The view of Topanga Creek at the Inn of the Seventh Ray.

Dinner that evening was at the Inn of the Seventh Ray. A Topanga institution, it is often described as the prettiest restaurant in LA. It really is beautiful. Most of the tables are outside on decks overlooking Topanga Creek, and the entire place is strung with fairy lights. The food is great, but it is the floor show that cannot be beat. Coyotes kept scampering across the hill on the other side of the creek. You see a lot of things in NYC restaurants, but never that. The restaurant also has a gift shop that is full of interesting items.

Inn of the Seveth Ray, 128 Old Topanga Canyon Road

The LA Spiti on Robertson
The LA Spirit on Robertson at Kitson.

The next morning I headed to one of the more famous shopping strips in L.A.  Robertson, Melrose and Beverly Boulevards are Beverly Hills adjacent. There are fewer stores on Robertson than before the pandemic, but those that remain are very L.A. Located up the street from the beloved Ivy restaurant, Kitson is a retail veteran. It sells lots of L.A. tropes, like funny pool floats and easy sweat-based clothing for men and women, as well as books and accessories. It bills itself as an L.A. experience. A Kitson Kids is located nearby.

Kitson, 155 South Robertson Boulevard

Inside Chaser Robertson
Inside Chaser Robertson.

Down the street, Chaser offers a different take on L.A. fashion. The looks are Venice vibes meet rock and roll. Of course there are sweats and tees, many rock themed, but there are other looks available for women, men and children that are a bit less casual. It’s all about a relaxed vibe.

Chaser, 113 South Robertson Boulevard

Tour Tees Celebrating Blondie and lton John in LA
Tour tees celebrating Blondie and Elton John at Lauren Moshi.

Lauren Moshi is an interesting boutique. The eponymous owner is an artist who creates all the artwork on the tees and sweats. Everything is produced in L.A. and is unique to the shop. These stores are very L.A., where the days are super casual. Her artwork is also for sale in the shop.

Lauren Moshi, 107-109 South Robertson Boulevard

Curve is Full Of Cutting Edge Clothing
Curve is full of cutting edge clothing.

Up the street is Curve. This cutting edge boutique offers much more than sweats. If the L.A. woman wears sweats during the day, she is very likely to really dress up at night. Curve will have you covered with an international cast of designers. There are lots of accessories and shoes, too. A Curve in Noho existed before the pandemic. The staff told us that the owner was currently in New York scouting for new space. It would be great to have them back.

Curve, 154 North Robertson Boulevard

Manicured Trees on Robertson Avenue
Manicured trees on Robertson Avenue.

Robertson has plenty of manicured trees, an L.A. signature. Robertson and Melrose are also part of the L.A. Design District so there are tons of antique stores, fabric and furniture stores, and whatever-it-takes-to-do-up-a-house stores. The design stores now stretch out almost to La Brea, a creative area.

The Game Room At James Perse
The game room at James Perse.

James Perse has opened a huge emporium, named Robertson House. The eight rooms are full of furniture and soft goods for the home. Aside from selling clothing, furniture, and boy toys, he is now also selling travel experiences. Each room in the house displays goods for a different function. This is the current iteration of the Game Room. The pool table and ping pong table, but not the drum kit, are for sale. There is a smattering of apparel displayed here.

Robertson House143 North Robertson Boulevard

H. Lorenzo Offers Attitude in LA
H.Lorenzo offers attitude.

H.Lorenzo has been in L.A. for a long time, but this store on Robertson is new. The store had offered edgier designers that featured lots of designs in black and dark neutrals in the past, something you did not often see in L.A. This new store for men and women has plenty of color. The selection of designers from Mugler and Gautier to Comme des Garçons and Undercover remains similiar. The store is full of day to night dressing for shoppers with attitude.

H.Lorenzo, 474 North Robertson Boulevard

Colorful Women's Wear in Maxfleid
Colorful women’s wear in Maxfield.

If you drive up Roberston to Melrose, Maxfield will be to the left. Tommy Perse first opened Maxfield in a smaller space on Santa Monica in 1969. When it moved to Melrose, a separate building was added in the parking lot for special exhibitions and pop ups. This is one of the stores where the stars shop. There is a wide selection of designers, as in Malibu. There are just many more designers than in the smaller boutique. From casual street style to evening elegance, Maxfield has it covered.

Cases With Vintage Jewelry And Hermes Pieces
Cases with vintage jewelry and Hermes pieces.

The store also houses a large collection of vintage jewelry and watches, as well as modern pieces. Vintage Hermes pieces for the home are also plentiful as are vintage furniture and lighting. There are new books, but also a carefully curated selection of pre-owned books, often with interesting autographs. Art and toys are also dotted over the store. You never quite know what you will find.

Maxfield8825 Melrose Avenue

The Ganni Boutique On Melrose
The Ganni boutique on Melrose.

A Chrome Hearts store is nearby. There are many contempory brands who have stores in this area of Melrose. Ganni is another of them. The Danish ‘it’ brand has fun clothes at a contemporary price point. Other stores on the Avenue include Acne Studios, Rag and Bone, RTa and others.

Ganni, 9004 Melrose Avenue

Clothing For The Beverly Hills Life
Clothing for the Beverly Hills life at Sheila.

Another fave shopping area of mine is Sunset Plaza. There are some easy restaurants there, so after an al fresco lunch I took a look at what was on offer.  There are more conservative clothing stores in L.A., but not where I normally go to shop. Sheila On Sunset has the sort of classic clothing that many Beverly Hills women live in.

Sheila on Sunset, 8647 Sunset Boulevard

The Clash Of Colors In The H. Lorenzo Men's Store
The clash of colors in the H.Lorenzo men’s store.

H.Lorenzo has been busy opening stores. This is the newish men’s store. The new aethestic is in full flower here, with plenty of color everywhere. The clothing is from the same roster of designers as the Robertson boutique. The back of the store is light-filled as it has huge windows overlooking all of L.A.

H.Lorenzo Men, 8700 Sunset Boulevard

H. Lorenzo Women's Store Filled With Light
H.Lorenzo women’s store filled with light.

The women’s H.Lorenzo is across a driveway from the men’s store. I think that this was the original boutique. As there is much more real estate, this store is open and airy with daywear of the ground level and evening wear downstairs. The selection here is less street and more sophisticated than Robertson.

H.Lorenzo, 8660 Sunset Boulevard

The View From Sunset
The view from Sunset.

This is the view from the back of Sunset Plaza. Downtown L.A. is to the left. Between here and downtown lie worlds of shopping. Book Soup, one of the best book stores in L.A., is located a few blocks down Sunset. And Supreme has moved into the Tower Records space across the street.

A Light Filled Corner in Fred Segal
A light-filled corner in Fred Segal.

Fred Segal opened a store and a cafe on the corner of Sunset and La Cienega. Fred Segal always offered a unique shopping experience. Jeans and tees were his specialty, but he partnered with and leased space in his building to many other brands, creating a real melange of experiences. This brand is trying to offer different shopping experiences by grouping different moods of clothing. There are areas for men and for women and different life-style corners; and a nice selection of designer vintage, called Found.

Casual Looks In Fred Segal
Casual looks.

The brands sold here are contemporary price points. There is a lot of browsing to be done. Selections of homeware, books, beauty, and gifts are for sale. Think a cool selection of beach ready towels and beach bags. And funnily enough, the New York streetwear purveyor, Kith, has recently opened in the same building.

Fred Segal, 8500 Sunset Boulevard

On The Ocean
On the ocean.

The next day was our last day, but it was sunny. Even at the beach.

A Large Boutique With Lots of Shoes
By Far, a large boutique with lots of shoes.

Today’s first stop was at the destination shopping street in L.A., Melrose Place. The little spit of a street off Melrose Avenue as it heads towards downtown was discovered by Marc Jacobs in 2005. He opened several stores included the one at 8400 Melrose Place. A new Gucci by appointment shop for HNW clients is set to open there soon. As you round the corner, one of the first shops is By Far. This cool shoe and bag line is more popular on the West Coast than in NY.

By Far, 8408 Melrose Place

The APC Store Overlooks a Garden
The APC store overlooks a garden.

Melrose Placee is filled with pretty, ivy covered stores that are set down green walkways. The buildings have that old residential feel to them. Luxury and contemporary brands just love being here as it is all very civilized. Before Marc, the area had been all decor-oriented stores. The APC store decor is clean and cool, just like the clothes. APC epitomises French laid back chic, and this store is a pleasure to shop in.

APC, 8420 Melrose Place

Forte Forte is Full Of California Color
Forte Forte is full of California color.

You cannot really find the Italian label Forte Forte in New York, but with its bright colors and sunny looks it is a natural fit for L.A. The clothing is casual and relaxed, with a Beverly Hills vibe. Other long term residents of Melrose Place include The Row, Isabel Marant, Golden Goose, Bottega Veneta, Rachel Comey, and Zimmerman.

Forte Forte, 8424 Melrose Place

SPRWMN Sells LA Style Luxury Basics
SPRWMN sells L.A.-style luxury basics.

SPRWMN stands for Super Woman. An L.A.-based label, the collection starts with jeans, sweaters and jackets, and builds from there. None of the stores on Melrose Place are big, but this one is tiny. This collection is super easy to wear, and putting together an outfit or two is super simple.

Sprwmn, 8424 Melrose Place

The Path To Chloe
The path to Chloé.

Lots of the stores are set back down long entrances lined with small trees and vines. There are courtyards within courtyards in some of the stores, like Chloé. Chloé offers a small, perfectly chosen selection of the French brand’s signature looks.

Chloé, 8448 Melrose Place

Super Colorful Clothing At Marni in LA
Super colorful clothing at Marni.

Marni has been in this location for quite some time (it is their only L.A. location). As with other Marni boutiques, very little of the merchandise is out on display. You ask the staff what they have and they bring it out. Currently, a popular collab with the line No Vacancy fills the store.

Marni, 8460 Melrose Place

Maison Margiela Airy Space in LA
Maison Margiela’s airy space.

Margiela has a largish, tree-filled space that houses men’s and women’s collections. Some of the pre-fall styles had been delivered, giving an interesting hint of what’s coming. There is also a full selection of the shoes and bags. The openess and light makes everything look even better. Before or after hitting the stores, have a coffee at Alfred’s and enjoy the scene.

Maison Margiela, 8451 Melrose Place

The Mood At Ron Herman
The mood at Ron Herman.

Next stop was the Ron Herman “flagship” on Melrose Avenue. Located at Crescent Heights and Melrose, this is the building that used to house Fred Segal. In the old days, Ron Herman leased a space in the Fred Segal store and had an extremely cool designer boutique upstairs. Balenciaga and Saint Laurent would sit next to indie finds. When Fred Segal shuttered, Ron Herman became a stand-alone. He had had other stores in different hoods in L.A., but when the original store became available he took it. There was some fighting, but the clothing is now more about contemporary price points than designer — although some designer labels remain. There is a large boutique for women’s clothing at the entrance, along with a small building filled with shoes. The cool has been adjusted for a new time.

All Sorts of Denim
All sorts of denim.

The small room to the left is filled with denims and fun clothing. Upstairs houses vintage denim and workwear. These are more clothes for the California life.

Many Vignettes of Menswear
Many vignettes of menswear.

What used to be the old Ron Herman is now all menswear. And there are even cool suits, a bit relaxed and not uptight. There is a small Brooks Brothers area with some seersucker. It looked fun. This is casual, but not sloppy. Everything is perfectly put together. About half the store is filled with Ron Herman, and hopefully the rest of it will fill up with more cool merch.

Ron Herman, 8100 Melrose Avenue

The Parking Lot Has Been Taken For Lunch
The parking lot has been taken for lunch.

Mauro’s Cafe is located in the Ron Herman store, and has been here since 1992. Fred Segal was very much a see and be seen scene, and everyone stopped by to browse and have breakfast or lunch. You never knew who you were going to spot in the store. There is still a lunch scene, and the cafe was full. It was such a nice day that the staff added some extra tables and made a garden in the parking lot.

Mauro’s Cafe, 8112 Melrose Avenue

Officine Générale Mixes Art With Fashion in LA
Officine Générale mixes art with fashion.

We headed down Melrose towards La Brea. Stores line Melrose, mostly small boutiques, vintage stores and even some designer boutiques, such as Vivian Westwood. My destination was North Sycamore, the new street to shop with the coolest stores. It’s a small street, next to La Brea. Officine Générale opened recently. This French brand does tweaked classics for men and women. The clothing and accessories tend towards the tailored and have a chic, unisex appeal.

Officine Générale, 927 North Sycamore Avenue

Art Looms Large In Just One Eye in LA
Art looms large in Just One Eye.

The most interesting store on the street is Just One Eye. The space is huge and filled with art. A John Chamberlain here, a Murakami ther, with some Hirst in between. The owner, who was the creative director of Maxfield for many years, started Just One Eye as a website. There are “boutiques” on either side of the building, and each one houses a brand or so. There are offices and art upstairs. The store stocks a wide mix of designers like Prada, The Row, Armani, Wales Bonner, Fear of God, and Gabriela Hearst.

Select Items For Luxury Lovers in LA
Select items for luxury lovers.

There are new pieces from Hermes and Puiforcat for the home, and lots of cool vintage furniture. You can find furniture designed by Brad Pitt, if that interests you. Cases are filled with interesting contemporary jewelry. It’s like a street of shops.

A Selection of Interesting Brands in Los Angeles
A selection of interesting brands.

Everything in the store is thought out and cool. Also, everything is wearable. One of their best sellers is a bit contradictory. It is a $2,250.00 work shirt made in hand-woven cashmere plaids. The stones in the snaps are semiprecious healing stones. How L.A. is that?! That said, there are no clown clothes here. The accessories are also well chosen, and come from a wide swath of brands. There’s a kitchen and event space in the back.

Just One Eye, 915 North Sycamore Avenue

The Dramatic Rick Owens Boutique in LA
The dramatic Rick Owens boutique.

Rick Owens is a short drive away. Tucked amid the vintage and scruffy streetwear shops that line La Brea, the store is a minmalist monument. Interestingly, the store only carries the runway collection and not the other lines that are easier to wear.

Rick Owens, 819 North La Brea Avenue

Home Goods For Francophiles at American Rag Cie
Home goods for Francophiles at American Rag Cie.

Also close by is one of may fave stores in L.A., American Rag Cie. The store is divided into three spacious parts, the first being home decor. If you want French cafe chairs, this is your go-to place. There are interesting glasses, tableware, serving pieces, rugs, cushions, flatware, placemats and more. All of it covetable.

Vintage Denim and Clothing Mixed In With New Picks on La Brea
Vintage denim and clothing mixed in with new picks.

There are two large rooms that are full of clothing and accessories. The racks can be mixed with new clothing and vintage. You can take hours going through the inventory retrieving great finds.  I don’t know anyone who does not love this store. I had wanted to get to the two really new shopping destinations, like the Row DTLA and other places downtown, and the L.A. Garment District, as well as myriad vintage shops around La Brea and Melrose. But time was short so it will have to wait until the next visit.

American Rag Cie, 1505 North La Brea

The Original Michael's in Santa Monica
The original Michael’s in Santa Monica.

That night we had dinner with friends at Michael’s in Santa Monica. The roof of this  beautiful space is retractable so you dine in the garden, rain or shine. Michael McCarty and his wife Kim were there that night, which was a bennie. The food was perfection (as it always is). A fitting end to a fun trip.

Michael’s, 1147 Third Street, Santa Monica

Barbara Hodes is the owner of NYC Private Shopping Tour, offering customized tours in New York and Brooklyn. 

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