The Shophound In Los Angeles:
Meandering Down Melrose
At Maxfield, Fred Segal & More
At Maxfield, Fred Segal & More
October 13, 2009
So we're here in Los Angeles on vacation, but The Shophound is never really on vacation when there are bunches of stores around and we are in a strange new town. The last time we were in L.A. was about 10 years a go, and while some things have changed, a few things are the same. Drop us in the middle of West Hollywood, and we'll find our way to Ron Herman at Fred Segal by sheer instinct. We have a pair of Maharishi pants to remind us of the last time we were there, but how has the place held up after a decade?
We may not have caught the store at the best time, since they were going into their final clearance phase with a sidewalk sale and 50% off whatever was left, and 75% if you bought three pieces. Sale racks aside, we found the place to be mostly in its familiar mode of mixing sporty contemporary sportswear lines and denim downstairs with the more exclusive designer labels upstairs. The store still has a stellar lineup of labels (Margiela, Dries, Alexander Wang etc.), but many of the racks looked disturbingly sparse in places. Either they have already sold out of the best things, or their inventory was so tight that there just wasn't enough merchandise to properly fill the place up. It may well be a bit of both. The economy has hit L.A., and the extended writers' strike that preceded gave it a head start. There are lots of empty storefronts on Melrose.
If the goal of our shopping in L.A. is to find something we haven't seen in New York, Ron Herman succeeded with a selection of Comme des Garçons' Dover Street Market labeled sportswear and very California-ish limited edition line from Quiksilver among other things. If New York is stuck in a dark '80s revival rut, then L.A. stores give the look it a glossy West Coast sheen. Where they failed was when they let us wander through the store for 10, 20, then 30 minutes without once being approached or acknowledged in any way.
One thing that struck us about L.A. was how many more New York stores have opened West Coast outposts since our last visit. So why would we want to visit Paul Smith here when he has two perfectly good shops in Manhattan? Well, for starters, it's hard to resist that great big pink box on Melrose, and once inside, the cavernous space offers a pleasingly different experience cleverly tailored to its locale despite having essentially the same stuff we see at home. All that extra space, it turns out, makes a world of difference.
Of course there are also a few California based brands that have their own boutiques here, and its no surprise that a sporty label like Ever looks all the more appealing in its native environment.
It was further down Melrose, however where we found our first true shopping highlight. Cintra Wilson prepped us a few weeks ago in the Thursday Styles for our visit to Maxfield, one of L.A.'s signature stores. If any store can define the West Coast's peculiar blend of casual extravagance, it's this one. What can we say about a store that can successfully display shrunken heads and giant vintage Hermès Birkin bags within a few feet of each other? Plenty, aside from the fact that we were graciously welcomed into the store (are you listening Ron Herman?) and encouraged to peruse the place to our hearts content. Despite the shop's unmistakable California sense of style, there's lots there for any New Yorker to love, including lots and lots of black clothes. While the emphasis is on the progressive (Rick Owens, Balmain, Number (N)ine) there's enough Chanel to keep the slightly less adventurous quite happy. Of course, it's true that Maxfield is not for the limited of funds, but browsing is free and pretty easy.
Coming up: Silverlake and beyond.
Ron Herman at Fred Segal 8100 Melrose Avenue
Paul Smith 8221 Melrose Avenue
Ever 8251 Melrose Avenue
Maxfield 8825 Melrose Avenue, all in West Hollywood