The L.A. Fashion District is perhaps the premier shopping destination in Los Angeles for its bargains, garments and trend-setting designs. The numbers alone can be somewhat intimidating: 90 blocks, 4,500 apparel and accessory lines, more than 1,000 stores. For some, it's like trying to find the best fashion stores in Milan. Here's a guide to get you started.
For the ultimate L.A. Fashion District experience, go on Saturdays, when many wholesale stores sell garments directly to the public. Shops are typically open from 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Samples and extras go at 40 to 70 percent off retail prices, and remember to bring your bargaining skills.
If crowds make you queasy and you’re not a die-hard bargain hunter, reserve a day during the week when you’ll have some room to think. Note that if you’re trying to avoid the crowd by going on a Sunday, you’ll be extremely successful, given that the majority of the shops in the Fashion District are closed then.
By Metro: Take the Metro Red Line to Pershing Square at 5th and Hill Street, which puts you in the heart of the Jewelry District. DASH bus routes run through the L.A. Fashion District for easy transportation. Download a map of the district, or check routes online.
By Car: Several surface lots are available for all-day parking. Metered parking is also available, though signs can sometimes be confusing and tickets are common sights. Parking lots on Olympic Boulevard, a few blocks west of Los Angeles Street, are sometimes cheaper.
Bargaining: Arm yourself. Many of the deals you hear about are the result of bargaining, which happens at many (though not all) stores. Stick to what you’re comfortable with, and if you’re not happy with the price, look on the bright side: there are 999 other stores to find the perfect buy.
Clean and Safe Team: You might see folks on bikes in yellow uniforms. These are members of the L.A. Fashion District’s “Clean and Safe Team.” You can ask them for directions, maps and brochures and even lunch suggestions.
Be Prepared to Search: There’s a reason why they call real bargains “hidden” gems. At the Fashion District, the garment hunt is part of the fun, so open yourself up to the possibilities. Who knows what you might end up finding?
Buyer Beware: Some shops only accept cash, and for those bargaining, cash can often get you a better deal. Keep in mind that all sales are final, so let that decisive shopper in you come out to play.
Stores Marked "Solo Mayoreo:" This means these stores are wholesale only and are not open to the public.
For Large Purchases: If you plan on acquiring a whole new wardrobe, for instance, consider bringing a rollable piece of luggage.
Location: On Olympic Boulevard between Santee Street and Maple Avenue.
The Story: Prepare yourself for a dose of culture shock. The sights and sounds of Santee Alley are the first signs that this isn’t your typical Los Angeles shopping experience. Garment vendors hawk their wares in Spanish, Russian, German and more. The languages are nearly as diverse as the goods, which range from socks to handbags. Love it or hate it, Santee Alley is one of the most organic and vibrant shopping venues in L.A.
The Lowdown: People come here for cheap goods, i.e., knockoff designer labels and a hodgepodge of interesting accessories from Hello Kitty to cell phone covers. On the weekends, denim goes cheap. Check out Morrie’s (934 S. Maple Ave.) for a more traditional store setting (think Loehmann’s with style for the hipper set).
Location: Pico Boulevard between Main and Santee Streets
The Story: This is Rodeo Drive with the prices slashed. Most merchandise here is imported from France, Italy and other international fashion centers, hence the Euro nickname. As a result, merchandise here leans toward high-end sophistication. This may mean that you’ll still be shelling out some serious dough for the evening gowns, dresses and shoes that the corridor is known for. But deals are deals, and you’ll often only be paying 30 to 40 percent off retail.
The Lowdown: Boutiques reign over the European Corridor. Many of them are part wholesale, part retail, which means they'll open their doors to walk-in customers. Don’t hesitate to ask if they sell to the public.
Location: 9th and Los Angeles Streets
The Story: This is the granddaddy of the L.A. Fashion District, where fashion industry leaders come together to bust out $1.5 million a year, 1,200 showrooms and more than 4,500 fashion lines. The heavyweights are California Market Center, Cooper Design Space, Gerry Building and The New Mart. The Intersection is home to five market weeks a year, which attract buyers from all over the world and create some of the most groundbreaking styles in the country.
The Lowdown: These big garment wholesalers aren’t typically open to the public, but on the last Friday of every month, you can try your luck at sample sales. Note that these are clothes that have been modeled; in other words, models wore them (read: typically size six or smaller).
Location: Los Angeles Street between 7th and 9th
The Story: The L.A. Fashion District isn’t just about womenswear. The Menswear District is lined with stores selling suits, ties, shoes — just about anything a man needs to make himself noticed in L.A. No need to be a rich man, either. These suits are typically heavily discounted.
The Lowdown: Roger Stuart Clothes (761 S. Los Angeles St.) has been the mainstay for fine Italian wool suits, and it also carries lines from Loro Piana and Cerruti.
Location: Wall Street between 7th and 8th
The Story: The flower extravaganza that is the Flower District rivals Santee Alley as the most unique shopping experience in the LA Fashion District. Most of the action is based in the Flower Market on Wall Street. Founded in 1913, the indoor market boasts virtually every kind of floral cut you can imagine — silk flowers, Japanese ferns, various types of lilies and much more. If you’ve ever wanted to truly “stop and smell the roses,” this is the perfect opportunity.
The Lowdown: If you’d rather not pay the admission fee to the Flower Market ($1 to $2), several individual flower stores line the streets. Check out Unique Sarah (508 E. 8th St.) for exotics and special arrangements with a reputation for superb artistry.