Contrary to what you might see on American Apparel’s omnipresent billboards, or even on a Saturday night at the Echo, Eastside style is about more than mismatched Day-Glo cotton pieces and tube socks. If you’re older than 21, that look is not cute, and it’s definitely not chic. Echo Park and Silver Lake sistas who want to stand out from the hoodie hordes have always looked to their homegirl Jennifer Phillips for whimsical wearables. Through her boutique, Sirens & Sailors, Phillips has helped to put Echo Park on the trendsetter map and exposed local avant-garde designers (Grey Ant, for instance) to the masses via long-standing relationships with a steady stream of stylists who scout her store for fresh fashion statements.
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“When we first opened, in 2000,” Phillips says, “we were like a hidden gem. Now, it’s definitely different.”
Indeed, there is not only a slew of new, cool clothing shops just around the corner, but there’s also a Starbucks down the street and, of course, one of American Apparel’s biggest T-shirt emporiums. The property values have increased too. Phillips says that S&S has endured recent rent hikes by stocking higher-end pieces (“something the store evolved into naturally,” she says). Still, the writers’ strike and her own recent hiatus to spend time with her family (she’s a mama to three kids) made the beginning of this year tough-going.
Phillips transitioned into retail after throwing successful clothing parties from the home she shared with roomie Annabella Lwin, of Bow Wow Wow fame. She got her start as the buying manager at Wasteland on Melrose. (She trained all the buyers on vintage, so if they rejected your old duds in the ’90s, blame her!) In 2004, Phillips expanded Sirens & Sailors by taking over the Victorian-style bungalow next door to the original shop. And a few years ago, glamtastic designer Jared Gold transformed Phillips’ storage room into a ministore-within-a-store, with choice selections from his Black Chandelier clothing and gift line.
Currently, Sirens is doing well with lines including Clue, Dorothy Lee and Vivienne Westwood’s Anglomania. Phillips also has her own lines, one-of-a-kind pieces under the name J.P. Dawn and limited runs under her full name (which is also carried at influential boutiques like Aero & Co.). “I’ve been asked to produce more and sell in a show room,” Phillips says, “which might just happen for spring 2009.”
Like Echo Park itself, Phillips and her little haute shop will always be a mix of high and low. Designer pieces run from $125 to $500, but there’s plenty of $10-to-$40 jewelry, and lots of gifts too. Whatever the price point, expect the piece to be “fanciful, charmingly peculiar and neighborhood-proud,” as Phillips puts it. “The neighborhood is widening its horizons, and so is my boutique.”
Photo by Kevin Scanlon