Downtown Los Angeles is by far the most bustling neighborhood of the city. Whereas other go-to destinations like the bohemian Eastside or creative-chic Venice have developed a distinct personality, the beat of the DT streets isn’t quite as clear. MOCA, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Skid Row, the Wholesale Fashion, jewelry, produce and flower district as well as some of the city’s most prestigious galleries are all within five blocks of each other, making for a high-low mix that’s difficult to match. Artists of all kinds are drawn to this clash of cultures and many of LA’s best fashion designers have chosen to reside in the eclectic neighborhood (Raquel Allegra, CFDA finalist Gregory Parkinson and Michel Berandi, just to name a few). Downtown is also one of the city’s few walkable areas, so hit the pavement to find more than a few sartorial surprises.
Local design duo martinMARTIN (713 S Los Angeles Street) offers a modern minimalist silhouette for men and women, held entirely in black and white (with occasional pop-ups of shades of grey). Favorites are the intricately draped, bias cut dresses. After splurging on any of these sleek pieces, don’t be surprised if you end up enjoying a bacon-wrapped hot dog made on a pick-up truck parked on the street.
Moving on, a stop at Dosa 818 (818 S Broadway, 12th floor, by appointment only), housed in a huge loft in the famed Wurlizter Building, takes you deep into the world of designer Christina Kim. Known for her timeless, unfussy, easy-to-wear designs in natural fibers, Kim transforms the studio floor every season to reflect her inspiration for the current collection—memorabilia from all over the world, photo collages, one-of-a-kind pieces, as well as the complete home design and apparel collection.
A must-see is the Sartorialoft (1820 Industrial Street, #103), a truly hidden gem for fashion connoisseurs. Hard to find treasures such as apparel by Japanese Individual Sentiments, leather bags by Italy-based m.a+ and jewelry by Germany’s Werkstatt:Muenchen can be found here.
A bolder tone is prevalent at The Brutique (453 South Spring Street), a favorite of Mugler creative director and Lady Gaga stylist Nicola Formichetti. The Bohemian Society designer Victor Wilde recently opened this performance art/showroom/retail space in the back of a bookstore for in-the-know urbanites.
California being the capital of denim, you’ll be able to find it left and right, but no one does it quite like Thvm Atelier, which has its own art and retail space on the eastern border of Downtown. With tie-dye washes ranging from pastels to deep gray as well as classic blues and blacks, you’ll find no excess stitching or hardware on these pairs. Adding to the appeal, cuts are limited to a few basic models and prices are held under $100.
For vintage fans, the soon-to-be opened (officially at the end of the month, but appointments are already being made) New/Found is nested in the Cooper Building (which also houses well over a hundred designer showrooms). The store offers a designer-heavy selection including pieces by Alaia, Chanel, Hermes, Dior and the likes, alongside tightly curated, contemporary apparel from local labels (860 S Los Angeles Street, Ste 711).
To round things out, stop by Rodarte’s favorite bookstore Caravan Book Store (550 S Grand Avenue) and hit the Corkbar (403 W 12th Street), a wine bar focusing exclusively on small California wineries, which also has the best grilled cheese in town.