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Peeks at Boutiques

Shopping The Neighborhood: Robertson Blvd.

July 16, 1999

When it comes to world-class shopping, Los Angeles and its environs rival New York, Paris, Milan, London and Tokyo. Most major designers have set up shop somewhere in Southern California or their clothes are available at specialty or department stores in the area. Chain stores quickly interpret the most popular styles in every permutation of size, color and price for mall shoppers.

Welcome to the global boutique, where shopping just isn't that much fun anymore. Why? Because the same stores, brands and styles are found in virtually every city or mall around the world.

Boring.

So The Times fashion staff has decided to scour Southland neighborhoods in search of unique shopping opportunities. We'll periodically ferret out clusters of interesting boutiques, looks and ideas in neighborhoods throughout the region and share what we find with readers.

Keep in mind that unusual items are often found in small stores featuring lesser-known designers. Trendy looks like the current bohemian or Asian styles can be found for less than designer prices by shopping ethnic neighborhoods. And we all know that a shopping expedition can be for scouting and recreation--not for buying.

We fanned out on Robertson Boulevard for the first of our occasional series on Shopping the Neighborhood. The shopping stretch between Beverly Boulevard and 3rd Street has become a magnet for many only-in-L.A. stores like Curve and Lisa Kline. It's also a destination of choice for young designers from outside of Los Angeles, like Kate Spade and Cynthia Rowley.

Clothing in general is pricey (most items, even T-shirts, cost $50 or more) in this neighborhood. But tracking the trends at the upscale boutiques, many of which feature clothes by up-and-coming designers from all over the world, is a good way to shop for ideas to duplicate for less.

After all, shopping can be an education.

The Route: We started from the public parking lot near Alden Drive and headed north on Robertson toward Beverly Boulevard. There we crossed Robertson and went south toward Third Street. Here are the stores we visited:

Freelance, 113 S. Robertson, (310) 247-8727. Fringe, glitter, fake fur and feathers reign supreme at this funky emporium with fashion-forward footwear from France in the $200 price range.

Waterworks, 109 S. Robertson, (310) 246-9766. Expensive French and English toiletries, antique bathroom fixtures and luxurious bath accessories. If you can afford a $96 soap dish, this is the place.

Tehen, 107 S. Robertson, (310) 860-9294. The French active-wear company offers knit basics in cotton, linen, silk and wool from $40.

Kate Spade, 105 S. Robertson, (310) 271-9778. All the classic totes, diaper bags and wallets the New York handbag designer is known for, along with newer knit jersey designs for fall, laptop computer cases, raincoats, pajamas and more. At $5, the Kate Spade mint candy are an option to spending $200 for a purse.

Parallel, 103 S. Robertson, (310) 276-7033. Wearable, yet hip clothes that fit well. Stretch cotton three-quarter sleeve shirts for about $60, T-shirts with urban prints for $40 and skirts in the fresh below-the-knee length starting at about $68.

Les Habitudes, 101-109 S. Robertson, (310) 659-2906. This fantasy boutique is full of heavily beaded evening gowns, wedding dresses, capes and jackets that most of us can only dream about. Most pieces from John Galliano, Vivienne Westwood and Eavis & Brown London start at more than $1,000.

Les Habitudes Bis, 8811 Alden Drive, (310) 273-2624. Clothing and shoes from past seasons discounted 50% and more.

Indigo Seas, 123 N. Robertson, (310) 550-8758 . Stepping into this boutique is like taking a mini-vacation to the south of France. The home furnishings store offers turn-of-the-century French antiques such as shell pots, Eiffel Tower collectibles, pottery, linens and pillows that will make your house look as fabulous as the Ivy restaurant next door. Few antiques are less than $100, but some tchotchkes from exotic tropical locales are under $25.

Ghost, 125 N. Robertson, (310) 246-0567. Ghost's signature clingy, whisper-thin dresses are expensive and only for those comfortable with their bodies.

MAC, 133 N. Robertson, (310) 854-0860. Body glitter, fake eyelashes and other funky cosmetics from the Canadian cosmetic line. The store offers a greater selection than department stores, and the staff will gladly let you play.

Maxfield Bleu, 151 N. Robertson, (310) 275-7007. This multi-designer store has expensive men's and women's separates from designers like Gucci, Voyage, Katyone Adeli, Dolce & Gabbana and Pucci.

Curve, 154 N. Robertson, (310) 360-8008. When L.A. fashion designer Delia Seaman and her partner Nevena Borisova opened Curve in 1997, they single-handedly breathed fresh air into Robertson's shopping scene. The bright store showcases colorful designs from up-and-comers like Fofo, Alpana Bawa, Beth Orduna and Michelle Mason.. Most items are more than $100.

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