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THE CREME DE L.A. CREME | Shopping

A Constitutional Guide to Consumption

From Rodeo Drive luxury to Silver Lake counterculture, where to absorb the atmosphere and indulge in acquisition.

August 10, 2000|VALLI HERMAN-COHEN | TIMES SENIOR FASHION WRITER

Our democracy offers many delightful freedoms, not least of which is the freedom to risk life and liberty in the pursuit of Gucci loafers. The Democratic National Convention visitors can put shopping high on their party's agenda.

Herewith, we offer a Bill of Shopping Rights and Lefts, a guide that will make consuming L.A.'s material goods speedy and less of a trial.

Rightist shoppers may prefer the shopping streets of Southern California that celebrate capitalism in its glory. Their pristine avenues, elegant storefronts and expansive malls make even window shoppers feel rich (or poor, depending your tax bracket).

Rodeo Drive and the adjacent streets in Beverly Hills display the spectacle of $50 potholders and $10-million jewels, seen in some of the most famous names in retailing: Tiffany, Cartier, Valentino, Christian Dior, Gucci, Chanel, Barneys New York, Neiman Marcus, Louis Vuitton, Hermes and more. Many sell affordable trinkets and perfume to take home as souvenirs. Live like a celebrity and schedule a spa treatment at the Peninsula Hotel, or have your coiffure retooled by Frederic Fekkai or Jose Eber.

For a breath of ocean air, visit Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade, a three-block pedestrian mall between Wilshire Boulevard and Broadway. It features the uber-hip Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Restoration Hardware, shoes by Skechers and Rockport, and the independent bookstore Midnight Special. Veer through the throngs of street performers and kiosks to reach the indoor mall, Santa Monica Place, at the southernmost end.

Pasadena, home of that great American tradition, the Rose Bowl, beckons with the Old Town district's slick shopping area. Check out the Pottery Barn, J.Crew, Banana Republic, A.B.S., Rizzoli books, and a few thriving independents, such as the Lather soap and scent shop and clothier Janice McCarty. Sample the delights for the body and soul at the Burke Williams day spa, the bustling Cheesecake Factory restaurant and the retro-cool Soda Jerks soda fountain.

To a Democrat, the most troubling aspect of mega-mall South Coast Plaza might be its location--in largely Republican Orange County, 45 miles southeast of downtown L.A. in Costa Mesa. But its lineup will earn forgiveness. It packs 260 stores and restaurants under one roof, including the boutiques for Jil Sander, Prada, Emporio Armani, Mikimoto, Judith Leiber, Burberry and the St. John flagship, which are exclusive to the mall in Southern California.

A nearby competing mall, Fashion Island in Newport Beach, beckons with 240 stores, including anchors Neiman Marcus, Macy's, Robinsons-May and Bloomingdale's.

More challenging shopping may appeal to the leftists, whose idea of an appropriate L.A. souvenir is a hard-to-find copy of a Charles Bukowski book, a vintage Hawaiian shirt or, perhaps, spandex leopard pants to wear in that garage band back home. For these items and more, begin at Melrose Avenue, between La Brea and Fairfax avenues.

The merchandise there looks like a fashion preamble to a rock festival. One store, Red Balls, sells cropped, mint-scented parachute pants, metallic pink fake-fur chubby jackets and red pleather blazers. Keep shopping and you'll be swept into trying on sequined stretch pants at New York, New York, or '70s-era T-shirts at vintage stores Wasteland and Aaardvark's Odd Ark.

In the past year, western Melrose, from Fairfax west to Kilkea Drive, has become the groovy outpost for more upscale designers. Transplants Daryl K, Liza Bruce, Betsey Johnson, Costume National, Malia Mills and Miu Miu have recently opened, along with designer vintage stores Resurrection and Decades. Local independents JonValdi, Emma Gold, Ruby Mae and longtime resident Fred Segal Melrose give the district its peculiarly L.A. flair.

Join the 20 million other tourists who flock to the Hollywood Walk of Fame and take home tales of the city's approaching revitalization. Far from being dully homogenized, stores here run to the unusual: Maya's Exotic Dance Footwear, Hollywood Toys and Costumes, Tower Records Clearance Center and more cool stuff.

Just four miles from downtown, the bohemian enclave of Silver Lake calls with an eclectic mix of stores, many along Sunset Boulevard. The Magik & Fetish shop sells studded leather next to the seven-table French bistro, Cafe Stella. Vintage stores thrive: Find vinyl records at Strictly Grooves and at Destroy All Music, and books, zines and Bukowski at Book Bound.

A sign at the Den of Antiquity vintage furniture store sums up the neighborhood's attitude: Shop Here: The Mall Is Evil.

Addresses, Page 28.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

"After you go see my movie 'I'm the One That I Want,' go to Cafe Tropical in Silver Lake and have a guava cheese tart. Why not? You're on vacation."

MARGARET CHO

Comedian

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