By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
BEST SHOP FOR THOSE WHO STILL SEND HANDWRITTEN NOTES
Soolip Paperie & Press is this city’s undisputed master of stationery. Other shops are perhaps more intimate and tightly edited (Urbanic, on Abbot Kinney), or offer hipper, more elegant letter pressing (Sugar Paper, in Century City), but Soolip was here first and beats everybody else with its variety. The hand-bound Italian leather journals look as if they fell out of da Vinci’s own library. I have seen the most hardened pen freaks fall speechless at the sight of the fountain pen selection. Every genre of paper snobbery is accounted for: inks for the calligraphy geeks; silk-screened Japanese yuzen papers for the book-binding crews; Parisian cards and envelopes for the etiquette-obsessed; albums and ribbons and flowers for the scrapbookers; a universe of notebooks for the compulsive diarists. You’ll never send another e-mail. 8646 Melrose Ave., W. Hlywd. (310) 360-0154, olip.com.
BEST UNDER-THE-RADAR MENSWEAR
South Willard is the clothing-store version of that quiet, unassuming neighborhood restaurant that serves exquisite but unpretentious food to a small but sophisticated clientele. In this case, exquisite but unpretentious menswear from a select group of designers, including Dries Van Noten, Stephen Schneider and Band of Outsiders. Located on an anonymous stretch of 3rd near Crescent Heights, behind an off-green (or is it brown?) storefront that suggests more canoe-rentals-on-Lake-Minnetonka than Weho glam, South Willard promises comfort — at a price. That price is quality. Consequently, bargains are relative at South Willard, but the two annual sales, held summer and winter, can get you to where (and who) you want to be, one white sea island cotton shirt at a time. Owners Ryan Conder and Danielle Kays, a surfer and a stylist, opened the shop “because we just couldn’t find the clothes we wanted to wear in Los Angeles,” says Conder, “and we wanted to have a shop with nothing made in China.” Understated and open like his store, Conder also stocks an intriguing collection of artworks by the likes of Jason Meadows, David Korty, Kelly Breslin and Stan Bitters — ceramics, lamps and paintings that really are great deals — as well as accessories and books. “I always wanted to have a bookshop,” he says, “so it’s a nice way to carry the books I want and not worry about making a living from it.” One more thing Conder won’t be making a living from: his blog, southwillard.com, for which he curates an eclectic mix of articles and visuals on current events and the arts. 8038 W. Third St., L. A. (323) 653-6153, southwillard.com/south-willard/store/.
BEST WAY TO SPRUCE UP YOUR WARDROBE FOR LESS
Stella Dottir is an Icelandic eccentric silver-dreadlocked fashion designer who operates her eponymous custom dress shop on Main Street, near Winston, downtown. Back when she opened, the spot was in the heart of Skid Row. Never one to shy away from adversity, she saw the recent economic downturn as an opportunity. Dottir, known for her velvet and lace gothic Victorian clothing, saw the chance to extend her shop with a line of one-of-a-kind hats, raw silk cloche; brocade and feathered headdresses; and other chapeaus inspired by the 1930s. “During the Great Depression,” she explains, sounding straight out of Reykjavik, “women could not afford new clothes, so they would buy beautiful hats to dress up their wardrobes, and turn heads.” Dottir’s carefully tailored hats sell for only $60 to $80, much less than her handmade dresses and jackets. She picks up a black crushed-velvet model with a black veil and ostrich feathers and puts it on her head. “Plus,” she says smiling coyly, as she pulls the black veil down over her face, “there may not be money for plastic surgery during the recession, and these hats are better than a face-lift anyway.” 430 S. Main St., L.A. (213) 623-8464, stelladottir.com.
BEST BUTTON-DOWN OUTPOST
Clean clothes. When you think Steven Alan, that’s what you get: clean and casual. Button-down redefined for Saturday afternoons. A latter-day F. Scott Fitzgerald in the backyard, maybe. Zelda, relaxed for once. In ruffled panties. (Okay, maybe not but check them out: stevenalan.com/journal/?p=282.) “It’s East Coast prep with an iconic twist,” says Scott Sanford, SA’s regional manager. “No logos, worn-in, disheveled, button-down that feels like a T-shirt.” Steven Alan began as a men’s shirting business 15 years ago, and now offers full men’s and women’s lines. The first L.A. store opened last spring (638 Robertson Blvd.), then was followed by a mainly women’s shop in Brentwood Gardens (11677 San Vicente Blvd.) and an Annex in Venice (1601 Abbot Kinney). This summer they opened just their second outlet store in Los Feliz (the other is on New York’s Upper West Side), offering sale items from the other L.A. stores along with a smattering of new clothes. If you can’t or don’t want to afford the regular prices, or simply want to get a sense of the clothes (Steven Alan doesn’t advertise), or your teenage daughter is obsessed with that whole New York prep oeuvre — or, for that matter, you are — the Outpost is a good place to start. The button-down that normally goes for $168 can be yours for $129, about the cost of a latte and a bagel at the Alcove next door. 1937 ½ Hillhurst Ave., Los Feliz. (323) 667-9500, stevenalan.com.