Melrose was at one time the place to go for cheap and chic fashion. The celebrated L.A. strip has lost some of its luster in recent years, but there are some exceptions, including the hip, Zen-like boutique Paper Doll. Muted shades are the shop's M.O., in its decor and its fashion offerings.
This spacious boutique is dotted with blond, wooden 4-by-4 posts that hold up racks of dresses and slacks and earthy yet feminine blouses in intriguing shapes and pleasing textures, including a three-quarter-sleeve gray T-shirt with chiffon trim for $37, a lightweight Navajo sweater with an open front for $44 and a floral kimono-style pajama jacket for $33.
Owners Ashley and Daniel Chung opened Paper Doll six years ago as an extension to Chantell, their more youth-oriented boutique across the street that's been in business since 1996.
"My customers were evolving with me," said Ashley Chung, adding that many of her customers have been coming to her for more than 10 years. A customer who was shopping on a recent Wednesday proved her point. "She's here with her 6-year-old, but she's been shopping with me since she was in her 20s."
Chung's favorite colors are taupe, gray and mauve, all of which are reflected in offerings that are oriented around basics but include a few novelties, such as fur vests. Prices start at $12 for tanks and range from $30 to $50 for pants and $25 to $75 for vegan leather handbags.
"A lot of my customers wear premium jeans and expensive leather jackets," Chung said. "They want to change what goes with them."
7312 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 857-6647.
Each season, there are certain must-haves. This fall, many of us are clamoring for fur vests, candy-colored jeggings and cashmere-blend sweaters that at Anat B cost $140, $49 and $50, respectively.
Anat B has three locations, which aren't focused so much on ambience as much as on a shopping experience that is friendly and easy to navigate. Its Santa Monica shop, for example, is well organized, with tops, pants and dresses arranged by size on uncrowded racks that leave enough room for shoppers to actually move the hangers.
Anat B was founded by Anat Broslavski, who opened her first eponymous boutique six years ago in Beverly Hills. She describes her clientele as ages 17 to 70 and her target price as $50 to $100 per item.
At Anat B, a beautiful shirt or jacket often costs $50, including the well-constructed, motorcycle-style jacket from the brand Beulah that feels thick like real leather but is, in fact, pleather.
What separates Anat B from other boutiques that operate at this price point is Broslavski's attention to the tactile. Whether it's a $100 chiffon wrap dress or a $25 T-shirt, she makes an effort to select fabrics that don't feel as inexpensive as the price tag would indicate. Her merchandise, which is primarily from L.A. designers, is updated weekly.
271 S. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills, (310) 385-7917; 1230 Montana Ave., No. 101, Santa Monica, (310) 319-3400; Fashion Square Mall, 14006 Riverside Drive, No. 120, Sherman Oaks. (818) 981-1717.
Monrovia's Suo Boutique benefits from its location on a busy street directly across from a strip mall anchored by Marshall's. But it's what's inside this small shop with exposed brick walls that keeps it bustling. On a recent Tuesday afternoon, the store was abuzz with young and not-so-young women, abiding, apparently, by the gilt-framed poster behind the register: "Your husband called. He said buy anything you want."
At Suo, buying anything you want doesn't cost that much. A schoolteacher from nearby Duarte spent $133.02 buying five items, including a bird print chiffon wrap, an embroidered kaftan, a belted green sweater with rosette corsage, a satin slit inset jersey top and a silk blouse. "I just needed to update my wardrobe," said the woman, who was headed to Marshalls afterward. "I'll go to the mall, but I don't have a lot of favorite stores lately."
Suo, in business 121/2 years and with two locations, was started by Jeanne Herrera and her sisters. "Our shopper wants good quality for her money," said Herrera, who carries many of the same L.A. brands as other boutiques, including Miss Me denim and Ark & Co. silk print blouses.
Denim runs from $32 to $92. Blouses average $29, according to Herrera, who arranges clothes by color palette on circular racks that are topped with complementary handbags and scarves. Faux-leather handbags are among the shop's bestsellers, usually selling for about $50. A burnt orange clutch cost $24; a bright green handbag, $48.
Herrera attributes her boutiques' success to weekly merchandise updates, loyal customers and "selective buying."
601 W. Huntington Drive, Monrovia; (626) 305-9440. 100 Citadel Drive, Suite 208, Los Angeles; (323) 887-3817.