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Chic--and Cheap : Negotiation is the key at the emporium, where charming clutter fills 7,000 square feet and valet parking is free.

February 12, 1993|GERI COOK

It had to happen, I suppose. An upscale flea market with a Beverly Hills ambience.

It's the Chic & Cheap Emporium, and it offers extras avail able only in the priciest shopping milieu. There's an espresso bar and a counter for delicious breads from La Brea Bakery. No bargains in either one, but the free valet parking is a plus.

More than 7,000 square feet of charming clutter hold just about everything you could want from diaper pins to diamond pins: English, French and country antique furniture, housewares, new and vintage clothing for the entire family, lingerie, cosmetics, jewelry, vintage linens, cowboy boots, fresh and silk flowers, old English silver, china, bric-a-brac and lots more.

The emporium opened in November to a mob that included several celebrities, and celebs continue to shop here. Chic & Cheap's slogan, "Spend new money to look like old money," is an astute observation of what many of us try to achieve in our shopping endeavors.

Owner Ziza Brown explains the philosophy of her newest venture: "The Chic & Cheap Emporium is dedicated to providing a lot of look for not a lot of money. This is a department store of years past, with two floors, no elevator and a cordiality from the vendors that is very conducive to a buying mood."

The chief bargain angle is that everything is negotiable and, since most booths are manned by the individual vendors, negotiations are immediate. I found a baroque French perfume flacon marked $118 at the cosmetic counter in the middle of the first floor and bargained down to $95.

At another booth, a coffee table in almost perfect condition that sold for $1,200 new was tagged $350; after a brief negotiation, $50 was deducted. On the other hand, some items are overpriced (World War II leather bomber jackets for $1,000, or $175 for a silver-plated--and tired--chafing dish), but the astute shopper will find more good deals than bad ones.

My favorite shop is Fresh Clothes Daily, Marcia Selwyn's corner at the left of the stairs on the first floor. Selwyn's inventory is heavy on women's jackets and suits, and offers a combination of new and resale apparel with lots of couture labels. This spot alone is worth the trip. If you like the designs by Harriet Selwyn (Marcia's sister-in-law), look for new close-outs of this line.

A matte jersey column dress originally $500 is $150. Armani, Yohji Yamamoto, and Biblos are well-represented at a fraction of their original prices. Gently worn Chanel and Armani suits range from $295 to $395. A spring-weight plaid suit by Chanel (probably around $1,200 last year) was $295. As is usually the case in resale, the size range is limited to the svelte.

Purchases are paid for at the front desk, but practice your negotiating with the vendors. It's fun, and can be very worthwhile.

Where to Shop Location: The Chic & Cheap Emporium, 315 S. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles. Hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express. Call: (310) 275-5229.

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