If you haven’t yet ventured downtown for shopping, now’s the time with 54 awesome retailers to discover! DTLA is where you’ll find the most unique items and have the most fun and adventure in the process. Give yourself enough time to stop along the way…maybe start the day with breakfast at Pitchoun Bakery & Cafe across from Pershing Square and be sure to ignore the sign and DO walk into Please Do Not Enter next door. Wander in and out of some of the jewelry stores in the neighborhood and if you’re looking for diamonds, my go-to guy is Mervyn at Los Angeles Diamond Factory, 607 S. Hill Street, Suite 302. Tell him Mary, the napkin ring lady, sent you. He’ll know. From Hill Street, head one block east to Broadway and south to 9th Street. In this neighborhood you’ll find fabulous shops at the intersection of 9th and Broadway. By the time you’re done in this part of town, you may be ready for lunch. Any of the restaurants in this area are good, but my favorite is L.A. Chapter at Ace Hotel. After a relaxing lunch you’ll be ready to head down to South Park. But whether you Uber it, Metro Bike it, or go on foot..be sure to walk across the street from Ace Hotel and pop into Formerly Yes for a curated selection of well-priced modern gift options . I could go on and on… but just take a look at the map below and have fun planning your own shopping adventure. And if your excursion takes you downtown after December 17th, don’t miss the new Brigade store in South Park on the street level of the Marriott Courtyard building on Olympic Blvd. They have the best selection of all your favorite brands. And you’ll most likely have to set aside another day to cover all the great shopping territory there is in the Arts District!
You never know until you walk in, what you might find in DTLA’s new retail stores which are popping up everywhere these days . At Parker & Barrow, which just opened at 814 S. Broadway on the same block as Urban Outfitters, I discovered that this store offers women’s and men’s PB brand jeans off the rack or the option of getting a pair made to order with a custom fit and color choice.
Parker & Barrow is the vision realized of Thelma Siguenza who describes herself as a “fit architect.” She’s been responsible for the fit that has made Joe’s Jeans such a phenomena and she also lends her expertise to a myriad of other jeans and pants companies. By today’s price standards for jeans, PBs are reasonable–around $125–plus a nominal add-on if you go with custom made options that can include a little longer leg, waist adjustment or maybe narrower or wider at the bottom. Once you have your first custom order, your specs stay on file making it easy to order in another color or fabrication.
Men can also get custom shirts made in fabric combinations selected from bolts on display. These aren’t your father’s custom shirts — the Xeres (pronounced “series”) label, designed by Tarek Akaweih, takes the shirt to a whole new dimension with the finished product making a significant statement of individuality.
I tried on one of the PB jeans and couldn’t resist the soft brushed cotton with a slimming stretch to the fabric. There were about eight colors to choose from and I decided on a faded military green. The fit was perfect but I opted for an extra inch at the bottom and Thelma suggested tapering the leg a little bit more. Stay tuned for next week and I’ll show you how they turned out.
I have a hard time finding scented candles that I really love but I think my search may be over now that I’ve discovered The Fenix Candles which are also found at Parker & Barrow.
The Candles come in scents curated for women and men and just smelling each of them can become addictive. I settled on Greek Currant but it wasn’t easy to narrow it down. Fortunately the store is just across the street from where I live should a whiff of California Redwood beckon! There are 182 scents to choose from on the Fenix website. Thank goodness there are only about 20 choices at Parker & Barrow.
Every shopping trip deserves a break and the perfect new place to take it is at Verve. If you’re walking (and you should be) the shortcut from Parker & Barrow on Broadway to Verve at 833 Spring Street is through the parking lot next to Two Boots Pizza then to your right on Spring.
Even though they weren’t officially open, Verve managers Malvina and Katie invited us in for a look around. They offered to test out their new high-tech coffee machinery on us but we could tell they were still unpacking boxes so we promised we’d be back. Verve is based in Santa Cruz, CA where they have four locations and this is their first one outside of Santa Cruz. With the proximity to The Fashion Mart, I can see Verve fast becoming the fashion industry hangout packed with designers and buyers collaborating on the next trend within this creative and spacious environment.
In addition to the coffee choices, Verve shares its space with Juice Served Here, a LA company. Lots of fresh raw juice choices and cleanse options for those getting ready for fashion week!
The other intriguing feature of Verve is the back room which is the headquarters for the company that designed the space: MAI Studio. Verve is completely aligned with MAI Studio’s description on their website that states, “Our material expertise allows us to push the boundaries of design, creating products, interiors and alternative methods of construction which provide innovative solutions to the built environment. Our team draws on a wide range of backgrounds integrating fine art, branding, interior, graphic and industrial design. Our International portfolio includes boutique hotels and restaurants as well as residential and condominium projects.”
While Verve has been in the build-out, I’ve seen the spectacular wall garden in the making. Week after week plants were being carefully mounted onto the facing walls on each side of the patio. The seating area is a conservatory of exotic plants where you can breathe in this welcome oxygenation in the middle of the city while getting even healthier with a bottle of Clean Greens Juice made of Coconut Water, Cucumber, Kale, Spinach, Parsley and Romaine. On the other hand, there are those of us who need of a surge of caffeine through our veins, so the cupping ritual of a Verve coffee, carefully brewed from beans sourced in remote global villages, might be just what the doctor ordered!
A walk around the block these days has become an adventure and, while everything new is exciting, I also want to be sure to support places like il caffé which is connected to Acne Studios, the Swedish clothing retailer located in the Eastern Columbia Building . When I walk into il caffé they know my name and I inevitably run into one of my neighbors which reinforces the sense of community that continues to make DTLA feel like home.
Last night I attended a “Fireside Chat” with Hal Bastian and Brigham Yen. the two men who have been the most passionate voices and citizen activists in the renaissance of DTLA . The lounge-y lobby of The Standard Hotel was full of residents, the just curious, and the big investors who all hung on Hal’s and Brigham’s every word .
Hal recently launched his own firm, Hal Bastian Inc., after spending the past 20 years in commercial real estate followed by 13 years as the Director of Economic Development for the Downtown Center Business Improvement District (DCBID). While at DCBID, Hal was instrumental in bringing residential and retail development as well as friendly dogs and their owners to the streets of downtown that were once, not terribly long ago, deserted after 6 p.m.
Brigham told us about how he got his love for DTLA which started when his dad took him on a Greyhound Bus trip from Utah to Denver to Chicago to New York with each city destination getting another “really” in front of the “big.” His dad would preface their arrival at each destination by saying, “Son, this is a (add 1 REALLY for Denver, 2 for Chicago and 3 for New York) big city!” At one point Brigham was hired by Hal to work for the DCBID and now he focuses on DTLA real estate as well as his blog, DTLA Rising, where he uncovers all the latest news on what inquiring minds want to know about new developments, retail construction and renovation within each of the downtown districts.
Hal and Brigham, in many ways, reflect the two generations that are the embracers of the DTLA lifestyle–babyboomers and millennials. Both demographics have already discovered why downtown is so great. At the same time Hal acknowledges that the future of downtown must include better public schools such as Metro Charter School, that was started by DTLA parents a few years ago, along with more parks and activities for young children such as the annual Halloween Party in the FIDM Park. The goal is to make it attractive for parents to continue to live downtown when their children reach school age. Hal argues that young parents who work downtown might rethink the time they could lose with their kids due to commuting vs. the trade-off of the house and the back yard (not to mention upkeep!).
Brigham, a Cal Berkeley grad, said he could never understand why his Bay Area friends were always so down on LA. While he realized as a college student that Los Angeles was still lacking the city vibe that he found in San Francisco, he still wouldn’t give into the jibes. He described an enjoyable moment of vindication that came the other day, when he ran into two old friends from the Bay Area, one of whom owns several restaurants. Brigham said that he asked him, “Hey man, what are YOU doing here in DTLA?” “I love it here,” his friend replied, “There’s so much cool stuff happening.” For Brigham that was one of those ultimate reassurances of knowing that what you’ve been working so hard for has materialized.
Hal gave us a great quote from Teddy Roosevelt, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I could think about this one for hours. Which of these two pictures is better? I don’t think it matters. I think we just embrace the change.
The photo above shows what the DTLA skyline will look like when the 1,100 Wilshire Grand Tower is completed at 7th and Figueroa in 2017. This photo was pulled from Brigham Yen’s DTLA Rising blog.
So yes, we can certainly compare one era to another, but we also revel in the uniqueness of our city. It’s not just the old and it’s not just the new, it’s how the pieces are all working together like the Broadway Trade Center building, formerly May Co. Department Store, formerly Hamburger’s Department Store. This structure bordered by Broadway, Hill & 8th Streets has been purchased and is going under a major renovation. No one has the definitive on what or who will occupy the building but the rumors are all intriguing. I’ve heard that one floor will be the world headquarters of Beats by Dre which is owned by Apple. Another inside scoop is that the ground floor will be a “world’s fair of mindfulness.” There have been talks of high-end retail, residences and creative office space within this structure which takes up nearly an entire city block. Most importantly, this building is just a spectacular piece of 1906 Beaux Art architecture that’s been a long time coming in being re-appreciated.
Hal loves to tell how long it took to convince a grocery store to come downtown and finally Ralphs agreed. 7 1/2 years later, this store does $1 million a week in sales and is the #1 take-out deli in the entire Kroger corporation (parent company of Ralphs). While on the topic of grocery stores there were cheers from the audience for Whole Foods that’s currently under construction at 8th and Grand and Trader Joe’s that agreed to build, not exactly downtown, but rather in the new University Village project by USC. And we were reminded to be grateful for City Target and Smart & Final Extra…both incredibly clean, well stocked, and super helpful. Except, and I ask your indulgence here… I still don’t like the idea of having to bag my own groceries the way they expect you to at Smart & Final. And while I’m on the subject, I think we’ve all gotten pretty good about bringing our own bags BUT, If I did happen to forget my bags, I am really annoyed with the ten cent, or whatever it is, charge after I’ve spent $50+ on groceries. Why don’t all the stores who have to abide by this new law have a jar for charity and if you have to buy a bag, put a donation in a jar for the homeless–don’t make me have to give it to the store!
Now back to the chat: Brigham said people used to say that LA “had no soul” referring to no appreciation for the history of the city and vibrancy of life in those historic areas. Let it be said, the soul of LA is awakening. It’s happening in the revitalization of the old and the boldness of the new, including the Broad Museum and Plaza along with new residences and fun places to congregate like Pez Cantina at 400 S. Hope.
No conversation about DTLA is complete without a discussion of the homeless, the lack of affordable housing and the scarcity of owner-occupied buildings vs. rentals. These are conditions that affect every income level and the complexion of the city. The housing issue is under constant discussion by the city while the County of Los Angeles as well as the State of California needs to step up and get more involved. The care of the homeless should not just be left to the City of Los Angeles to figure out. Drugs, alcoholism and mental illness are conditions for which the County Health Departments must find solutions and provide relief. Unfortunately it’s the urban locales that bear a disproportionate number of these cases which lead to homelessness.
The Midnight Mission is one of the most active resources for the homeless in DTLA . They bring together DTLA residents and volunteers for an annual event in The Old Bank District that gets everyone involved in supporting the great work of this 100-year-old center dedicated to helping the homeless get off the street and become productive citizens.
“Vacant parking lots suck the life out of the city,” was one of my favorite Hal Bastian observations of the evening. He’s so right but I never thought about it that way. Of course this led to one of the other items on the wish list of everyone who cares about DTLA –more green space. Grand Park has been a tremendous asset but south of that there’s a big need. I must say, though, that I have a hummingbird feeder on my 8th floor balcony and I’m visited daily by a shimmering green little avian . When I look out my window and down to the trees on the street below, I sometimes catch a yellow butterfly flitting among the tree tops . Just think what we could have if a few more parking lots were turned into parks! I’m anxiously awaiting what we’ll see when the building across Hill street, which I see out our window, finishes the pool and community deck. I have high hopes that I’ll be looking out on planters and trees.
Which leads me to what Hal and Brigham shared about the 5,000 new residential units that will all be completed by the end of 2015. Only 68 of those 5,000 were for-sale units and they were in The Barker Block in the Arts District. The reason for this disparity, according to Hal, is that lenders are still stinging from the real estate fallout that resulted in so many short sales and foreclosures. They want to go for occupancy first, which hopefully will be followed by residents being offered the eventual opportunity to buy.
Here are a few more of the good things that we learned:
Elysian Park just above DTLA has tennis courts, baseball fields, picnic areas, an awesome view of the city and great hiking trails. Hal is working on getting a corporate sponsorship for a DASH bus to take downtowners back and forth to this lovely place. Knowing Hal, he’ll make sure dogs are allowed on the bus, too!
DTLA is the hub of a multi-billion dollar mass transit system. Union Station is a pretty impressive confluence of transportation options.
And with all this good news, instead of taking Uber home, I decided to walk and see for myself what the streets of DTLA were like on a relatively “quiet” Thursday night. Who knew that Bill Nye the Science Guy would bring out a crowd that stretched down Broadway and wound around 7th Street.
It’s always fun to discover something going on–like Bill Nye the Science Guy– that you didn’t even know about. And the gorgeous high ceilings in Clifton’s that were visible by night gave me a peak at what this long-awaited, multi-level restaurant and bar has going for it in the way of a landmark restoration and destination attraction to Broadway.
As I walked I started thinking retail…remembering Hal’s and Brigham’s claims about everything that’s been opening on Broadway including the newest: a Gap Factory Store, and the others that have come along in the past year or so such as Acne Clothing, Aesop, Tanner Leather Goods, Oak, and Urban Outfitters. “What else haven’t I noticed?” I wondered.
In the 700 Block of Broadway I came across a project in the works. The store used to be Rainbow and I actually bought a sundress there for $10 the first summer we lived downtown. The dress held up pretty well but it looks like some deeper pockets have an even better idea for what they want to do with this space.
I have high expectations for what I see happening here .
A block further south on the corner of Broadway and 8th, I noticed some art had gone into the three store fronts along 8th street (but tonight there was paper covering these windows so we’ll have to see what’s next). Here’s what it looked like on Thursday:
Next to Farago was a new shop and I loved their honesty. The name is LA EX and the tagline is “The Tiny Flagship Store.” I will definitely check them out this weekend.
In the same series of shops, the guy who used to make keys and repair shoes at The Broadway Exchange has a much nicer storefront now on 8th at Broadway.
As I walked past all these examples of what Hal and Brigham talked about, I realized that it’s a unique experience to be living in the midst of so much change. I’m looking forward to the fist episode of the TV show Hal is working on with Ryan Morris, the producer of the late, great Huell Howser’s TV show about California points of interest. Hal is the perfect guy to take this on–especially with all the new material that DTLA is giving us. Watch for “What’s Up Downtown? with Hal Bastian.”
I look forward to keeping up with all of Brigham Yen’s posts about what he’s hearing around town and hopefully continuing to discover one or two of my own.
We’re here for a reason and the only reason I can think of is to make this world a better place. Thank you Hal and Brigham for your passion, drive and commitment to this city we call home.
If you’re a boomer you remember the song that tells the San Francisco-bound to “be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.” That song, released in May 1967 and sung by Scott McKenzie and written by John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas, was pretty much the only memorable song that McKenzie ever recorded. It had the distinction, however, according to Wikipedia; of being “the unofficial anthem of the counterculture movement of the 1960s.” Having grown up in the Bay Area during those years, the song has a lot of memories and still goes with me on my iTunes today.
Now I just came back from a busy 9-day visit to San Francisco and flowers were the last thing on my mind–my hair was blowing wildly in the cold wind off the Bay and I was frequently freezing as I traversed from the City to the East Bay to Silicon Valley. No matter where I was, there was a chill in the air at night, but in San Francisco it was an all-day thing where the typical summer day looked like this:
Which made me think about these great scarves and shawls I saw at Unique LA at the Late Sunday Afternoon booth. I sure wished I’d had one with me! One of those fabulous shawls would have so easily folded into my briefcase and whenever the fog rolled in, I could have swirled it around my shoulders, my arms, even my head and been warm and cozy with no real added weight in my bag.
There’s also something very retro-San Francisco about Late Sunday Afternoon scarves and shawls- they consider each one they make to be a prayer shawl and they knot and bless each one for the individual who wears it to have Love, Adventure, Happiness and Mystery.
The guys (yes, it’s dudes that design and make these scarves) go beyond just their words–they are also creating a scarf/blanket/ backpack called “The Voyager,” that’s waterproof on the outside, with a pull string on the outer edge turning it into a backpack with straps and fleece on the inside for warmth. They intend to use a portion of their profits to provide homeless/houseless beings their own Voyagers.
So you can do a good thing for yourself and someone else by checking out the Late Sunday Afternoon website–or if you want to meet the guys behind this great Venice, CA-based company, you will find them July 26 & 27 at the free-to-attend Renegade Craft Fair in DTLA’s Grand Park. As long as we live on the coast, we’ll always (thankfully) have cool evenings–so why not look cool and be warm with a little something from Late Sunday Afternoon?
Memorial weekend–the harbinger of summer–purple jacarandas blooming all over Los Angeles., fog rolling in from the coast, Vin Scully’s voice on the airwaves. If you’ve decided to take a long weekend drive up to NoCal, remember it’s THE 5 or (NO “THE”)Hwy 1 and DO NOT put “THE” in front of ANY NoCal freeway…even though we call it THE 101 down here. And one more thing to remember, once you do arrive in Big Sur, Carmel, or San Francisco you are likely to experience the kind of summer weather, that according to Mark Twain, was the coldest winter he ever spent.
So the question for us gals is: How do you dress chic when you have to deal with the California summer hot/cold dilemma?
The answer: Jacket Society! Nora Minassian’s made-in- L.A. collection of jackets curated for every season. Nora’s created the perfect look to complete any ensemble–whether it’s jeans and a tank top, a tailored skirt and silk blouse or linen shorts and a T-shirt. No more scrunching up a sweater or going with the 90’s passé pashmina. With Nora’s jackets, the look is comfortable and put- together at the same time.
I met Nora at Unique-L.A. and we instantly connected. She’s got sparkling style with an equally radiant smile. Her Jacket Society website not only gives you the opportunity to buy online, she also shows how to put the look together, accessorize it and where to wear it around L.A. as she blogs about; and her husband, Tim, photographs; favorite places to spend an afternoon or evening around town.
With Nora’s jackets in your closet, you have an easy wardrobe inspiration every day. Here’s a sample of just a few of her looks :
From imported Italian brocade:
To Italian Rayon blend with metallic shine:
to lightweight Rayon Poly Spandex blend:
To Rayon Tencel blend
Nora and I are talking about getting a group of gals together here at the loft where she can bring her collection and we can enjoy some champagne and strawberries while we update the look of just about every pair of jeans, skirt or dress that’s already in our closet. No need to throw out the old…it’s the jacket and the accessories that make everything new again.
Have a great Memorial Weekend and while you’re lounging by the pool (hopefully we’ll get some sun!) pull out your iPad and check out Nora’s website for the perfect way to look cool and not freeze whether you find yourself in A.C. or catching some of that summer L.A. breeze.
As Southern Californians, let’s all tip our hats to California Chrome who might just show the world that a horse from the town of the stinky cows has a chance at being the first California horse EVER to win the U.S. Triple Crown! California Chrome’s win at the Kentucky Derby on May 3rd made him the only California horse to take the Kentucky Derby since 1962 –and the others were all the way back in 1955 and 1922. California Chrome’s next race is the 139th Preakness Stakes on May 17th which will be the 6th race in his 5 race winning streak.
Did I say, “Tip our hats?” What image better says “Race Day” than an undulation of remarkable hats? Yes–it’s time to celebrate with a hat! So to honor California Chrome’s Derby win and his prospects for the future, I headed straight to CLADE, Maya Reynolds’ downtown menswear store at 600 S. Spring Street, knowing that Los Angeles milliner extraordinaire (Azita) Ariane Azarpira would be there this past Thursday night during the monthly Downtown Art Walk. (Yes I know, it’s Saturday and I’m a day late on my Friday post!)
Owner/ designer Maya is a big collector/ wearer of Ariane’s hats and she introduced a men’s hat line to compliment her expressive menswear collections for clients that include musicians, artists, actors and others who don’t have to conform to tradition. And now Maya has added a few women’s pieces into her shop, which is akin to a Victorian- era closet on steroids. Happily, I discovered that Ariane brought all her new spring/ summer women’s hat creations to CLADE for Art Walk night. With wine to sip and cheese to nibble on–the men make quick decisions while the women turn the minutes into hours of exploring their alter-egos.
I think there’s something about a hat that makes a statement about the mood of its wearer, festive, intellectual, sporty, brooding, whimsical, hip, mysterious, edgy, or, in some cases, just plain goofy. Sometimes you’ll hear someone say, “I just don’t look good in hats.” I think the truth of the matter is you have to be willing to explore your personality with no preconceived ideas. While California Chrome pursues the Triple Crown, I invite you to sip a mint julep read California Chrome’s Wikipedia story to find out what DAP really means on the silks of California Chrome’sjockey, Victor Espinoza–and pursue your own crowning moment with a new summer hat!
And for the first 25 people that:
1) Comment below by telling me what hat you think I bought and which other one you think I should buy AND 2) You’ve subscribed to my blog
You’ll be invited to a hat party at our Downtown L.A. loft with Ariane to personally find the perfect hat for you! The choices are (these are just a few of the many that Ariane has created):
1) The Diane Keaton
2) The Wild West
3) The Purple Velvet
4) The Multi-Stripe
5) The Summer Floppy
6) The Hand Painted Floral
7) Ariane and me with a white Panama fedora
Hats are like friends–you make an instant connection…and you rarely have just one! Be one of the lucky ones to come to our hat party with the gorgeous, gracious and amazingly talented Ariane who will help you find that perfect hat for your personal summertime style-and she’ll show you just how to wear it, too! So let me know your favorites and don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get on the invite list.