Shopping in Los Angeles requires a bit of tactical planning. After all, there's nothing worse than driving to a store and battling for a parking space, only to find that it doesn't have what you're looking for. Here, we've broken down some of our favorite women's clothing boutiques for every occasion—from our favorite denim bar to our secret weapon for out-of-town guests. Let the trend-setting begin!
RECOMMENDED: The best shops in Los Angeles
This serene, appointment-only showroom is one of the best-kept secrets on the LA retail scene, located in the loft-like penthouse of an historic Downtown high rise. Designer Christina Kim collaborates with artisans around the world on her seasonal clothing and accessory collections, resulting in quietly elegant pieces such as tunics from organic Indian cotton and soft sweaters from Bolivian alpaca. Home items are also part of the mix—many of them incorporating recycled materials—as are found objects that Kim’s amassed on her travels.
Jewelry designer Kathryn Bentley has created a sun-dappled escape from the buzz of Silver Lake’s Sunset Junction—one that feels a little bit like a forest cabin, with its stained glass windows and teepee fitting room. Bentley’s own creations play the starring role in this show—her brass-and-enamel costume jewelry line, Dream Collective, is just as striking as her namesake fine jewelry collection—but she’s also pulled in some supporting talent from her local designer pals. Our favorites: Jesse Kamm tote bags and woven leather moccasins from Bea Valenzuela.
Okay, so maybe you don’t have any need for a pair of four-figure Balmain leather pants taking up space in your wardrobe—or your credit card—but this iconic LA shopping destination can’t be missed. Its angular concrete home is a work of art alone, while inside dwells a mix of ultra-luxe men’s and women’s wear that basically defines the rock-and-roll side of LA fashion. And be sure to take your time browsing the Rick Owens jackets and Chanel frocks—you may just bump into Kanye West or an Olsen twin (all three are loyal fans of the shop).
American Rag is our go-to denim destination for its vast selection alone. Even if you aren’t sure what you’re looking for—Colorful and printed? Raw Japanese selvedge? Distressed vintage wash?—you’re bound to find something among the dozens of brands on offer. Just about every big name in premium denim is represented for both guys and gals, and staffers have a knack for helping you sift through the stock to find the perfect fit and style. After you’ve emerged from the store victorious, we recommend beelining for the attached Café Midi for a celebratory cappuccino and some street-side people watching.
This shop attracted so much love from LA ladies after opening in 2005 that owner Jade Lai decided to launch a second outpost in New York. But we’re still partial to the original location, a rare refuge of peace off Melrose Avenue. Inside, you’ll find unobtrusively cool brands from both near (Clare Vivier handbags, All For the Mountain jewelry) and far (loads of Isabel Marant and Rachel Comey). Our favorite pieces in the store, however, have to be from CoC’s in-house clothing line, filled with the kind of perfect basics you’ll wear over and over—slouchy tees, cropped trousers and pretty patterned blouses, to name just a few.
Peruse the page of any SoCal fashion blogger and you’re likely to see at least one mention of The Reformation in the photo credits. It’s easy to see why—the design team makes each piece right in the boutique, which means fans are privy to a steady stream of sexy silk tanks, denim cutoffs and party dresses in the most up-to-the-second silhouettes. But the main reason why we love this store is that the line is made solely from vintage and surplus fabrics, ensuring that each piece is made in limited quantities and is as green as it gets.
Whenever we have a big meeting at the office, we head straight for the Jenni Kayne sections of our closets. This local design star has mastered the art of tailoring with a California twist, crafting the most perfect pencil skirts, jackets, trousers and blouses in fun colors and prints. Her two LA boutiques carry the biggest selection of her line in the city, along with jewelry, bags, housewares and kids’ clothing from an assortment of equally talented designers. Also in residence: Kayne’s signature D’Orsay flats, a must for anyone who can’t deal with heels from nine to five.
This store’s vibe reminds us of our high school art teacher: lots of linen and nubby fabrics, painterly prints, and jewelry with a strong arts-and-crafts element. But in the hands of the global crew of designers that fill the store, that’s actually a good thing—hand-dyed dresses by new Venice Beach label John & Mickie, digitally-printed silk garments by LA’s Ermie, and knotted rope necklaces by local artist Tanya Aguiniga were just a few of the things that caught our eyes on our most recent visit. Inexpensive vintage hangs alongside the contemporary pieces, so expertly curated that it’s impossible to tell the new from the old.
This pastel-painted boutique is hard to miss and often referred to as one of the city’s best spots for gift shopping, but we prefer to stop by when we’re looking to buy a gift for ourselves. Accessories are the name of the game, with a roster of so-hot-right-now names—Clare Vivier bags, Pamela Love jewelry—and lesser-known designers, many hailing from our own fair city. We usually head straight for the women’s shoe section, which bears a neatly edited collection of Dieppa Restrepo’s cheerfully-colored loafers, Rachel Comey booties and TenOverSix’s own brand of subtly sculptural dress pumps. The airy shop, which resembles an art gallery more than a traditional retail space, is also a great place to come for gifts. Look for kids’ gear, indie albums, small leather goods and fragrances that are hard to find anywhere else.
Fred Segal is perhaps the most recognizable name in LA retail, thanks to a series of high-profile shout-outs in cinematic favorites such as Clueless and Legally Blonde. With that in mind, your out-of-town houseguests will most likely want to check it out—either while shopping on Melrose Avenue or during a beach break in Santa Monica. If it’s a souvenir tote they’re after, we recommend the Melrose outpost, but if they’re just visiting to kill time before lunch, all signs point to SaMo—lauded LA burger chain Umami has a restaurant space in the store.