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Cervar sells a hooded sweater by the ReykjavÃk designer Mundi that wraps around your head in a cowl, and zips up to completely cover your face except for large oval holes where your eyes peep out. It would look smashing for nightclubbing, or Alpine skiing, or bank robbing, or any combination thereof.
"Yeah, the designers are having trouble selling that one in the U.S. because of the Ku Klux Klan. And Abu Ghraib," Cervar says, thoughtfully. "The average American man can't figure this stuff out. But that's not necessarily who it's for."
The typical Welcome Hunters client is a gallerist or an art collector, someone avant-garde, someone "from the Westside who has a different level of disposable income, shall we say." Roseanne Barr once wandered in. She didn't buy anything, but Cervar would have put her in a flowing gray-silk angle tunic by Best Behavior (it looks not unlike a robe they'd drape you with at the salon when you get a haircut) and a pair of toffee-colored Giorgio Brato lamb-leather boots. The aspiring Welcome Hunters client, however, is Jesse Ramos, a 17-year-old boy from the local high school who comes in after class with his buddies to try on the clothes. Jesse and his friends Jose Olivar, Brandon Calvero and Gary Lopez — juniors and sophomores at Cathedral High — cannot get enough of the store. Brandon is saving up to buy a white hoodie with Rorschach blots, which he plans to wear instead of his school uniform on one of Cathedral's free-dress days.
"I would wear this shirt with these pants," Jesse says, indicating a long, striped tee that would cover the pants' bright-orange butt.
"But now you can't see the butt," I say.
"That's the point."
"You know what would look great?" Cervar says to Gary, who is trying on a green-and-white-striped sweater.
"If I take it off and put it back?" says Gary, grinning.
As long as they don't get too rambunctious, Cervar doesn't mind if the boys try on the clothes because it gives her new ideas for outfits.
"If you start a trend, the principal puts it on the restricted list," Jose says. "What if I wore this masked sweater to school and they made a rule that said 'No masks'?"
That, they all decide, would be awesome. Because as Brandon says his English teacher says Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "To be great is to be misunderstood." Which to Jesse is just another way of saying, "If people are hating on it, you must be doing something right."
When she was a teenager, Cervar could not rest easy until her outfits were just so. During her punk-rock phase, it had to be authentic U.S.-military-issue paratrooper jump boots. Not Doc Martens. She spent inordinate amounts of time sourcing the perfect pair of black tights, because she didn't like the way some turned greenish-black after washing. Drugstore tights from CVS, she found, held their color well and ripped in interesting ways.
"The Who and the Clash screamed about life and politics and I was ready. I said, 'I want your clothes, I want your hair, I want to be you,'" she recalls. "Some people think fashion is superficial. But I don't. I think it's all semiotics and culture and how we make meaning."
The store's Web site had a photo for a while of boys riding mopeds in newly liberated Trieste during World War II, just after Italy capitulated.
"We put it up," says Cervar, "because we loved the way the boys look. Apart from that problem with the fascism, Italy had great style, great architecture. But hey, what are you gonna do?"
WHAT'S IN THE WELCOME HUNTERS CLOSET?
Bea Yuk Mui: Ironic iconography (unicorns, rings, strawberries). Cashmere sweaters, scarves.
Giorgio Brato: Fruit-dyed leather shoes and boots from Bologna.
Jenny Hellstrom: Owl-print jackets. Detective-inspired menswear.
Iben Hoj: Cobwebby blouses and shifts reinforced with stainless steel, from Copenhagen. Only 10 pieces in each collection, but, says Cervar, "perfectly realized."
Kloset: Flirty, pretty dresses from Bangkok.
KTZ: Tees, trousers and dresses in video-game colors.
Mundi: Sweaters like you've never seen sweaters.
Marjan Pejoski: Hosiery. Remember Bjork's swan dress? Pejoski made that.
Welcome Hunters, 454-B Jung Jing Road, Central Plaza, Chinatown; (213) 687-9905; www.welcomehuntersla.com. Open Wed.-Sun., noon-7 p.m. Winter sale, 40-50 percent off, currently in progress. See laweekly.com for more Welcome Hunters pictures.