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Click and Wrap

Forget Fighting Traffic for Boutique Christmas Shopping--Los Angeles Retailers Are Taking to Cyberspace

November 23, 2003|Adam Tschorn | Adam Tschorn last wrote for the magazine about maple syrup.

When holiday shopping for the family back East, I'm always torn between the desire to get them something uniquely L.A. and the desire to do as little legwork as possible. My first impulse is to avoid the seasonal mayhem and shop online. But I've found that from an individuality standpoint, cyber commerce is really no different than going to the mall--a sea of soulless cookie-cutter stores such as Amazon, Williams-Sonoma or Pottery Barn. If I send a gift from one of those e-tailers I might as well be living in Hoboken instead of Hancock Park.

My wife is the opposite. She is a professional-grade shopper who can multi-task at her laptop on four or five windows at once, manipulating images of shoes, hats, jackets and purses on the screen like Tom Cruise in the opening scenes of "Minority Report." Sometimes her raw desire to purchase seemingly wills Web sites into existence.

While I may never shop on the same level, her retail prowess inspired me to seek out favorite L.A. shopping haunts online. Many of the trendy Melrose boutiques, 3rd Street shops and assorted neighborhood stores are increasingly taking up residence in cyberspace. So I can cyber-shop with confidence that when the packages are finally opened, my family will realize that this year my gifts didn't just come from the heart--they came from L.A. too. If you're looking for a more personal touch without the hassle, the following links--some with full online service and others offering a selection that can be ordered by calling the boutiques--are a great place to start.

Newport Beach designer Paul Frank's store on 3rd Street is Hello Kitty meets "Planet of the Apes," offering funkified clothing and accessories (T-shirts, backpacks, boxer shorts) decorated with Frank's cartoon creations. The most recognizable is a wide-mouthed monkey named Julius that serves as the company mascot. The store's online selection ( isn't as comprehensive as the boutique's, but it's a great place to eyeball the company's fall 2003 collections, find a wristwatch or pick out a retro animal-emblazoned wallet bearing the slogan "I'm not a prairie dog y'all" for your favorite animal lover. Paul Frank collaborated with PETA, and a portion of the proceeds go to the organization.

Another onetime Paul Frank collaborator is the Orange County-based artist Shag. Inspired by the commercial illustrations of the '40s and '50s, he paints a colorful world of swimming pools, mixed drinks, buxom women, tiki heads and pencil-thin hepcat lounge bachelors, which makes it pretty much a cartoon version of how the rest of the world views L.A. Wares include drink coasters, greeting cards, books, clothing and bar accesories. Since there isn't a Shag store (his original paintings are sold through galleries and Shag swag is sold at various boutiques across the city), the Web site ( is a real timesaver when snapping up prints, books, ties and, for the mixologist on your list, a "Shag's Around the World in 80 Drinks" 2004 calendar featuring a year's worth of Shag art and cocktail recipes.

If your taste in art is more rocking chair than on the rocks, point your Web browser at Santa Monica's Gallery of Functional Art (, where limited-edition and one-of-kind art furniture pretty much guarantees your giftee won't already have one just like it. Ahead-of-the-curve home furnishings include trippy cracked-pottery mosaic lamps by local artist Shannon Landis Hansen and brilliantly warped metal furniture sculptures by artist John Suttman that would be at home in Roger Rabbit's Toon Town.

Los Angeles' granddaddy of functional art is downtown's new Walt Disney Concert Hall. A drafting pencil's throw across Grand Avenue is the Museum of Contemporary Art and its gift shop (, which is the perfect place to pay retail homage to L.A.'s "Man-of-the-Moment" and Disney Hall architect Frank Gehry. In addition to the book "Frank O. Gehry: flowing in all directions," the store offers a selection of Gehry gear (postcards, miniature chairs, T-shirts). Other notables include limited-edition replicas of Jeff Koons' Balloon Dog sculpture, some of the slightly used 3-by-7 1/2-foot lamppost banners used by MOCA to promote past Lucian Freud and Andy Warhol exhibits, and the usual assortment of museum-quality vases, jewelry and candles.

For candles themselves, Illume on 3rd Street has an L.A. sensibility, Hollywood pedigree and eclectic selection of candles in tempting scents such as pineapple cilantro, mulled wine and gingerbread. The Web site ( points out that Melanie Griffith once placed a single-season order for 120 Illume gift baskets (available online from $35 to $325 each), and that Courteney Cox Arquette loves the company's pomegranate-scented candles. If it's good enough for these Hollywood ladies, it's good enough for me.

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