Downtown Los Angeles shopping is an experience unlike most other spending trips in the city. Of course, perusing shop windows and checking out local artisans' wares is a great way to get to know whatever neighborhood you happen to be in, but Downtown is so big and so diverse that if you're shopping here, you'll get a taste of each part of one the most storied, interesting (and lately, happenin') areas of the city, from Little Tokyo and Chinatown to the Arts District. You'll also get to know the very people who are dedicated to revitalizing the area to its former glory, one handmade luxury good at a time.
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Best Downtown Los Angeles shopping
This husband-and-wife-owned shop and gallery space (named for her grandmother's mispronunciation of "pocket") strives to bring art into customers' everyday lives. Find all sorts of eclectic goods, from the artist-designed vinyl wallets to colorful socks and tees. Plus, the store occasionally hosts art shows and musical performances, making it a great place to get to know the Arts District's eclectic, creative community.
If the Last Bookstore were really our last bookstore, we'd be in good shape. Currently housed in what used to be an old bank building (complete with marble columns and giant doors), the store first began in a loft apartment and has since expanded to include a record shop, coffee bar and "Labyrinth" mezzanine level solely dedicated to $1 books. It's now the largest independent bookstore in Southern California. You can sell or trade old books here, pick up new ones, grab a record or a cup of joe and attend a myriad of events including readings, book signings, writer's groups, open mic nights and concerts. It's a true community hot spot, bringing like-minded literary folks together to create, inspire and share in an open and welcoming space.
This super-hip outpost of home goods, art, skincare, clothing and accessories from husband-wife team Raan and Lindsay Parton (he’s the creative director of the highly curated neighboring men’s emporium Apolis: Common Gallery) is a welcome addition to Downtown’s Arts District. The bustling neighborhood is a bastion of wares for the aesthetically minded, including the shop’s own navy blue 1959 Fiat Abarth Spyder—the only of its kind in the US. Be on the lookout for Rodin’s much-loved Olio Lusso ($150) as well as items from brands like The Hill-Side and Gitman Vintage. Grab coffee from Blacktop next door before you peruse, and be on the lookout for the Guerilla Tacos truck that sometimes parks outside.
This shop boasts beautiful, handmade leather goods from Portland Oregon, displayed in a sizeable space amidst a small (but great) selection of clothing, a spattering of ceramics, coffee table books and accessories that may or may not be for sale, like a 10-speed bike suspended from the ceiling and light fixtures we can't stop dreaming about. Tanner Goods is all about the process, and their staff is super knowledgeable about each piece's provenance and properties. The shop is a great place to find gifts for men, or anyone outdoorsy with a weakness for well-crafted goods that'll last 'til they're well-worn.
Half art gallery, half boutique, this hybrid design store stocks merchandise from local artists on the first floor and runs a rotating exhibition on the second. Walking through the gallery space, owner Robert Apodaca's background in architecture is prevalent through his eye for contemporary and edgy art and design pieces. The space is stocked with jewelry, accessories, furniture, home wares and unique handmade objects. Browse for exclusive items made for Fifth Floor, such as a tree stump cat scratcher, Sewn Machine throw pillows and a handmade Windsor chair.
The Arts District's shopping landscape got more rustically rugged with the addition of Hammer and Spear. A vintage compilation of leather, wool and wood, Hammer and Spear is a place that feels half hunting lodge, half Southern estate sale—and all completely original. HGTV’s Design on a Dime host Kristen Cunningham and her husband Scott Jarrell have curated finds from their own travels and also support local artists as well as those from their home state of West Virginia. And given that they are actually on site most of the time, they can give you a history of the product—perfect for the conversation that each piece will be starting.
It seems as though there’s enough dishware in this gift shop to stock all the kitchens in LA—and it’s been serving shoppers in Little Tokyo since 1958. Walk the long first aisle for gorgeous sake sets, bowls and teacups, then consider the selection of Zojirushi products toward the back—every household should have a rice cooker or hot pot, right? Don’t forget to sift through their collection of chopsticks, origami paper, imported teas and candies. There’s also an assortment of fancy vases in the front room, perfect for gifts.
Tastemaker Wendy Yao packs her boutique with books, zines, graphic novels, mixtapes, art and other treasures you're not likely to find elsewhere in LA. The clothing selection includes cult brands like Opening Ceremony, Bless and Slow and Steady Wins the Race (most of which is also available at Ooga Booga's online shop). Be sure to follow the stairs up to the second floor when you arrive—the tiny shop is hidden enough to prevent just any old shmo from stumbling in off the street.
One step inside Raggedy Threads and you’ll feel as if you’ve been transported to Grandpa’s attic—assuming your Grandpa was a stylish old chap. The secondhand shop is teeming with fashions and memorabilia from decades past, and the vintage treasures are anything but raggedy. Distressed leather boots with brass clamps shine under the store lights, 1940s Beacon blankets are spotlessly clean and men and women’s apparel from every 20th century decade are ironed and hung tidily, ready for you to flip through. Owner Jaime Wong mans the counter herself when she’s not traveling the country on buying trips, picking out items from dealers and conventions across the country. Her more prized finds? A collection of plaid and jean-clad Buddy Lee dolls that are on display only, as Wong can’t bare to part with them.
As artsy as Downtown LA comes, The Well was established in 2010 as a clothing boutique/hair salon/event space with the mission of uniting LA's music, design and fashion scenes. The sprawling space has hosted everything from funky DJ sets and warehouse sales to pop-up shops and parties, and always has forward-facing fashion for sale, if you're brave enough.