Shopping online is easy, but the experience of walking into a store, especially a small independent one that’s been lovingly curated, stocked and decorated, will always be more special. Our favorites, especially for alternative style and fashion, happen to be women-owned, and it is their vision, taste and drive that’s helped their spaces not just survive but thrive. Retail in general is still bouncing back since the pandemic, and these ladies, some new to brick-and-mortar shop life, others working at face-to-face businesses for decades, deserve our support. It’s easy to give because their shops rock, and so do they.
Today’s fashion lacks the whimsy and pizzazz of the past, and often, the quality. But small designers like LA’s Larissa Blintz are changing that. With her vibrant retro wonderland Miracle Eye, she’s created a Latina-owned family business to be proud of. The house of groovy ‘60s and ‘70s clothing is “lovingly and ethically handmade-to-order” in downtown LA by a small team of seamstresses. Jumpsuits, mini and maxi dresses, and hotpants to make Marcia Brady and Austin Powers drool are created with vintage deadstock and zero-waste recycled fabrics. They’re also made to last, solidifying Blintz’s commitment to “slow fashion” (versus fast and cheap) and long-lasting styles from simpler times. 1031 N Broadway, Downtown. shopmiracleeye.com
Like everything else about Gen-Z, fashion and what is cool and stylish is a fluid thing right now. And that means it’s basically more fun than ever, especially for edgy, punky funky types who like to stand out when they go out and wear things in unexpected ways. Selling vintage online for over five years, Emma Harris opened Ratstar two years ago to share her love of thrifting and restyling clothing in person. She wanted the store to feel just like the excitement she gets from “finding the perfect vintage piece in a pile of… well, not so perfect pieces.” The 26-year-old, who also has three published poetry books that she sells in store, has gathered a collective of sellers and friends, each of whom curate secondhand and repurposed pieces that Harris hopes customers will “cherish in your closet forever.” Ratstar also collaborates with local artists and designers who have online shops, offering a space where they can let people try on their pieces in real life. Sizing is inclusive and there’s a range of price points. “Ratstar rides for shopping sustainably,” says Harris. “And being true to you.” 718 N Virgil Ave. shopratstar.com
Proud Mary might be the coolest name for a fashion boutique ever, and the fact that it provides chic and unique plus-size fashion makes it even more perfect. Mary was the name of owner Jessica Hinkle’s grandma, who taught her all about fashion and vintage hunting. Hinkle had a successful online business via Etsy before moving to LA to open her Highland Park shop, which features upcycled pieces in bigger sizes and small-run in-house designs all with a “fat-pride” vibe. Hinkle’s aim to create colorful, sexy and sassy looks for plus-size women like herself let her create more than large clothing, she created an XL community that is thriving more than ever since retail has gotten past pandemic restrictions. Now in its fourth year, the store has become an events space as well as a store, hosting parties, full-figured drawing classes, flower arranging and more. Check out their upcoming plus-size closet sale featuring one of a kind fashion from creators, models, Hinkle’s stylish friends, on Friday, Sept 29, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. 5335 N. Figueroa St. 323-250-6322. proudmaryfashion.com
Nancy Hunt founded NaNa Trading in 1976, and the store was a seminal pitstop for hip, punk, new wave, metal, rockabilly fans and beyond. It also was the first and primary U.S. distributor of Doc Martens. Her groundbreaking eye for trends and style saw the company grow with stores from coast to coast and a booming wholesale business, throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s. With The Brat Store, Hunt has continued to provide her customers with eclectic and eccentric looks, gifts and goodies. Hunt, who was profiled in our 2019 People issue, describes her vibrant store as a space that encourages “creativity, individuality, and style in everyday life” for everyone, from “kids to older fashion risk takers.” 1938 14th St., Santa Monica, 310-452-2480. instagram.com/bratstore
Micheline Pitt created Vixen in 2016 and the pretty pink Burbank showroom and store is a true glam gal’s dream. With a nod and batted eyelash at “1950s bad girls, vintage aesthetic, and ‘80s flair,” Pitt’s pinup and bodacious bombshell pieces are seductive, whether the cuts and fabrics are sweet or sexy. All are attention-grabbing and made for all sizes (from xs-4x). When we interviewed Pitt for our People Issue in 2019, we learned of her love of horror movies, which also is evident in her designs. She’s had partnerships with Pet Sematary, Ghostbusters, It and It- Chapter 2, while her sister company La Femme en Noir has joined forces with Sleepy Hollow, ALIENS and Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride. Her store and websites are must visits this Halloween. 2317 Magnolia Blvd., Burbank. michelinepitt.com
Before the internet provided punk people with endless portals for shopping (and copying) fierce pit fits from the UK and beyond, the original Poseur store on Melrose, and later, Hollywood Boulevard offered everything one might need to get audaciously and aggressively adorned. It might be easier to find combat boots, bondage gear and leather accessories online these days, but the in-person shopping experience is missed by many. Yaffa Sakhai has been running Posers — her own store in the same space that Gen-Xers might remember — for well over three decades now. Though not exactly the same as the British-owned original shop from way, way back, Posers has earned a rep in its own right, with a huge selection of crust, mod, alternative classics: Doc Martens, creepers of all colors, Fred Perry, Ben Sherman, Trip NYC, spikes, etc. Sakhai and her staff are known for attentive service online and in person, which keeps her customers loyal and coming back again and again, even when they grow up and become normies. Though Docs — or as we used to call them, DMs — are so ubiquitous they’re considered footwear basics these days, you’re still sure to find some unusual ones at this packed store. While you’re there, say hi to Yaffa and take a picture with her; you might just see the shot on the store’s socials soon afterward. 7417 Melrose Ave. 323-653-4393. weareposers.com
Formerly in Los Feliz Village, Vintage Vortex moved a bit west to Thai Town several years ago and it’s still going strong thanks to owner Michelle “Michi” Sharples energy and passion for fashion’s past. You’ve probably seen the outdoor sales racks driving through the busy neighborhood (the store is right next to Harvard and Stone bar, across the street from the Greenhouse cannabis shop and down the street from Jumbo’s Clown Room, not to mention surrounded by the best Thai food around). Set up like a vintage mini-mall, there are treasures galore to be found every week; one of our favorite ‘70s maxi dresses was bought here. Local vendors rent spaces in the store, bringing in their collections and decorating their individual spaces, all of which create a multifaceted environment that’s fun to shop in. You’ll find threads and doodads from the ‘40s to the ‘90s, all at affordable prices. 5213 Hollywood Blvd. 310-497-9976. instagram.com/vintagevortexvv
Upcycled clothing might be the best way to ensure that fashion is individualized and one of a kind — it also happens to be highly creative and relatively affordable. At Riled Up in Burbank, customization is key. Owner Lisa Riley showcases DIY threads by local artists and she creates her own designs inspired by music, movies and culture. In the space shared with another inspiring female entrepreneur, Karyn Cantor of Classic Hardware jewelry company, the punky wares also include candles, accessories and stuff you didn’t know needed, but will definitely want. 3206 1/2 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank. instagram.com/riledupboutique.
Outfitter Wig has been keeping heads in Hollywood glamour for over 50 years. The legendary wig shop, established in 1969, is one of the oldest of its kind in LA. Customers looking for costumes, a special event do, and drag ensembles have been coming here for years, and thanks to its new owner Bebe McPherson (an employee since 2016), the shop is more fabulous than ever. Many of the handmade and hand-styled wigs are created by wig artists who work with the store and it’s got a lot to choose from. From synthetic fiber to lustrous human hair in a variety of lengths and colors, to hair pieces, extensions, falls, clip-ins, bangs, and more, the space is brimming with head makeover magic and vintage allure. Bebe also works with the houseless and sex worker community and offers discounts to low-income shoppers. She has plans to make the store more of an events space with open mic nights and burlesque, too. 6626 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. 323-461-7822 outfitterswig.com
Celebrating its one-year anniversary this month, Eclipsed Emporium’s owner, Tuesday Hammerl, is continuing to build a fiendish following. Her Long Beach boutique offers alternative and dark-aesthetic clothing, home decor and more. As an established makeup artist with more than two decades of experience in the beauty industry, Hammerl also has been involved in the goth scene since 1993. She hosts family friendly events for the goth and dark alternative club and music communities on the first Friday of every month. “I’ve always had a longstanding fascination with dark fashion and art and decided to transform my passion into a full-fledged business,” says Hammerl, who also says her business is a welcoming space for individuals from all walks of life that is size-inclusive and caters to “ladies, gents, and all bats in between.” 4376 Atlantic Ave., Long Beach. 562-426-6222. eclipsedemporium.com
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