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Special fall fashion issue

A Guide To Independent Boutiques

August 17, 2003|TIMES WRITERS AND EDITORS

FROM SAN DIEGO TO SANTA BARBARA, SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA IS HOME TO SOME OF THE BEST CLOTHING BOUTIQUES IN THE WORLD. MANY ARE WIDELY KNOWN, EITHER AS EXTENSIONS OF LARGE FASHION HOUSES OR SECTIONS OF POPULAR DEPARTMENT STORES. THE FOLLOWING IS A SAMPLING OF SMALLER, INDEPENDENT BOUTIQUES THAT AREN'T AS FAMOUS BUT WHOSE CLOTHING IS EVERY BIT AS FASHIONABLE.

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A. Mason features feminine clothing with a French flair. An eclectic array ranging from gauzy corseted tops to embellished vintage Chanel jackets fuses romantic retro with current trends. Designers: Cynthia Rose, Amy Mitton, Edward An. 134 S. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles; (310) 205-6900.--Heather John

Aero & Co. is the brainchild of designer Cynthia Vincent and Alisa Loftin. This is the place to find the latest in Los Angeles designers, with one-of-a-kind pieces from Magda Berliner and Alicia Lawhon, and offerings from up-and-comers. Designers: Brian Lichtenberg, Rami Kashou, Grey Ant. 8403 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles; (323) 653-4651.--H.J.

American Rag & Cie., the flagship store of what began in 1985 as a hipster vintage clothing boutique, has since expanded to include current trends from Marc by Marc Jacobs, Comme des Garcons and other pricey youth-oriented designers. Designers: Lacoste, Levi's Premium, Twinkle. 150 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles; (323) 935-3154.--H.J.

Angel is for the young and body-conscious. The strappy tees and low-rise pants are spare and sexy, and there's oodles of the requisite Juicy Couture and form-fitting wear from Blue Cult. This is the newest outlet in the Wendy Foster empire; the longtime Santa Barbaran also has two stores in Montecito and another in downtown Santa Barbara. Designers: Three Dots, Rebecca Beeson, Susana Monaco. 1221 Coast Village Road, Santa Barbara; (805) 565-1599.--Ann Herold

Beige is the place to go for a first look at contemporary Los Angeles designers, with many one-of-a-kind offerings. The staff is approachable and friendly, and chatty regulars make themselves at home in Le Corbusier chairs. Designers: Michelle Mason, Loy & Ford, Gary Graham, Tree. 7274 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles; (323) 549-0064.--H.J.

B.Luu means there's no need to drive into L.A. to find cutting-edge fashion anymore. For two years it has been a Pasadena source for Marc by Marc Jacobs separates, as well as for other hot young contemporary lines. Designers: Tyler, Mason, Blue Cult, Shoshanna. Paseo Colorado, 340 E. Colorado Blvd., Suite 135, Pasadena; (626) 792-4140.--Booth Moore

Bryan Lee has been carrying edgy, unconventional clothes for women and men since 1982. Ruffled fuchsia shirts for him, corsets with cargo pockets for her, baroque denim skirts with bustles and trains: These lines are guaranteed to create that jaw-dropping, head-turning effect. Designers: J. Lindeberg, Frederick Holmes, Cover. 802 State St., Santa Barbara; (805) 963-0206.--Lisa Palac

Cherry West, the sister of the venerable West Village institution, opened earlier this year. With an emphasis on vintage American sportswear, selections range from structured and mod to disco and '80s glam, with an impressive collection of rock T-shirts and Joseph LaRose shoes. Designers: Bonnie Cashin, Anne Klein, Courreges, Balenciaga. 8250 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; (323) 650-4698.--H.J.

Curve features wispy tops, cotton skirts and feminine tailored trousers from lesser-known designers whom its stylish proprietors, Nevena Borissova and Delia Seaman, seek out. Sizes seem to be geared toward the impossibly waifish, and your luck will increase dramatically the smaller your waistline. Designers: Martine Sitbon, Megan Park, Michelle Mason, Jiwon Park. 154 N. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles; (310) 360-8008.--H.J.

Dari is a destination for Valley hipsters looking for the latest in feminine chic. Owner Melanie Shatner, daughter of actor William, has an eye for the next trend, particularly in denim. Designers: Paper Denim & Cloth, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Alicia Lawhon. 12184 Ventura Blvd., Studio City; (818) 762-3274.--H.J.

Decades is a favorite with fashionistas and red carpet divas for pristine vintage frocks and Hermes bags from the 1960s and '70s. Owner Cameron Silver has an uncanny eye for retro-chic; in addition to classics from Pucci and Halston, he has uncovered harder-to-find pieces from John Anthony, Rudi Gernreich and Koos. Designers: Gucci, Hermes, Courreges. 8214 1/2 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles; (323) 655-0223.--H.J.

Diane Merrick mixes bohemian chic with a hipster edge. Shelves of cut-to-kill T-shirts keep company with an eclectic array of cashmere, silk skirts, leather pants and must-have accessories at prices that run the gamut. Designers: Michael Stars, Autumn Cashmere, James Perse. 8588 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood; (310) 657-5115.--H.J.

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