YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Older And Cooler

Three vintage outlets are as surprising as their locales: a parking lot, a bookstore and a living room

December 30, 2007|Erin Weinger;Lucy Boyle

In 1997, before "vintage" was a red-carpet buzzword, Cameron Silver's Decades opened, becoming the Melrose Avenue standard for yesteryear couture. Today, Silver's shop is still in top form, though the genre itself doesn't enjoy the same cachet as before.

Not unlike the Golden Arches that beckon on every other corner, vintage clothing stores have become a dime a dozen. Massive British retailer Topshop now offers a selection of period Givenchy, Biba and Comme des Garcons on its website, while American Apparel, the L.A.-based chain that made cotton cool, recently opened a free-standing California Vintage shop in Silver Lake, devoted solely to 20th century goods.

But there's no need to covet this mainstream crop of back-in-the-day attire now that there are so many new places to test vintage's untraditional waters. A bookstore, a private palace in the Hills, and a fume-filled parking lot may not sound like spots for grabbing an old-school outfit, but these hidden gems have what it takes to make the once-thrilling pursuit of vintage a groovy pastime once again.


Good things don't usually happen in parking lots, especially ones surrounded by shack-like eating establishments where Pepto-Bismol is probably served on tap. But any lot promising vintage clothing deserves a shot at asphalt greatness. Ari is a tiny, 7-month-old boutique on a patch of pavement on the southeast corner of La Brea and Olympic. Sure, the color-coordinated dresses resemble Joan Collins' castoffs, but that's the fun part. With a fashionista's vision and a tailor's touch, you can make them runway ready.

A white jacquard dress with a ribbon of tribal-esque print may seem heavy and boring, but 4 inches off the bottom turns the otherwise matronly frock into something suitable for the most important job interview of your life. A light floral number that screams Aunt Bee becomes Balenciaga with the help of a few scissors snips.

This kind of shopping isn't for the faint of heart. (A space resembling an outhouse serves as the store's fitting room.) But it's worth forgoing the niceties to score some of these goods. Ari is gonzo vintage at its finest, perfect for those who love the hunt. And with most pieces priced under $12, you should have enough spare change to take your chances at the food hut next door.

1000 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles; no phone; Monday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

-- Erin Weinger

Kulturas Books

The literati and glitterati may unite at stylish soirees over trays of hors d'oeuvres, but the association usually ends there. Not so at Kulturas, where husband-and-wife team Irene Coray and Andrew MacDonald are keeping the party going by merging his used books and her vintage clothes in a retail paradise.

Coray, a recent Washington, D.C., transplant and self-described vintage fiend, is very picky about making additions to her 150-piece collection. Quality trumps labels, which is not to say that she hasn't found her share of designer booty. A black Yves Saint Laurent smoking jacket that could easily have seen a few fabulous nights at Studio 54 is Coray's all-time favorite score. As of this writing, a green and gold pleated dress by Bill Blass hangs on the bookstore shelf like a puppy awaiting adoption at the pound. For a mere $175, the dress, which Coray estimates to be from the late 1970s, can be your best friend.

And although this clotheshorse sometimes keeps her finds for herself, she is genuinely happiest finding the things her customers crave. "If you love clothing and you know clothing, you can spot things that someone else discarded. You can find treasures."

1700 Ocean Park Blvd., Santa Monica. (310) 450-8707. Sunday through Monday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

-- E.W.

Not to Be Reproduced

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror," proclaims Tracey Emin-created neon sign in Justin Kern's living room. As strange as this Oscar Wilde quote might seem hanging opposite a sofa, it is even more improbable as the centerpiece of a vintage clothing store. The artwork, created for a film adaptation of "The Picture of Dorian Gray," is just one of the many unexpected treasures for sale at Not to Be Reproduced, the 4-month-old venture that model-writer Justin Kern runs in his Hollywood Hills home.

Using his fashion insider knowledge and contacts gained through his modeling career, Kern has quickly managed to turn this collection of one-offs into destination shopping for Angelenos in the know. Championed early on by Mario Testino and profiled in Vogue magazine, Not to Be Reproduced manages to retain a homespun feel despite its growing fabulousness.

"Customers should feel free to hang out and have a drink," says Kern.

"People who come for the clothes can learn about the art, and vice versa."

Fortunately, the merchandise ($300 to $2,300), as well as the location, is unique. On offer on a recent visit was an incredible pearl-strap Chanel bag custom-made for Courtney Love, a Carolina Herrera astrakhan coat and an Azzedine Alaia LBD, complete with underskirt snaps to protect against flashing. And those who collect models as well as clothing would appreciate the Emin "Kate Moss" etching that imagines the famous waif as a reclining nude.

The entrepreneurial Kern has big plans for the store, including expanding the website to show original video content and creating a signature clothing line. For now though, Not to Be Reproduced remains a shopping experience that will delight even the most jaded fashionistas.

By appointment only. (323) 472-7000,

-- Lucy Boyle

Los Angeles Times Articles