advertisement

To come to Los Angeles and not shop would be like going to Paris and not tasting the food. Here, where image can be everything, the places that sell "the look" are a significant part of the city's culture. What follows is a listing of only-in-L.A. stores, boutiques, and shopping experiences that draw everyone from the most prestigious A-listers to the most dogged bargain-hunters. Tip: If you can't make it to L.A., note that many of these retailers also sell merchandise through their websites.

1. Fred Segal. At this classic L.A. store, which opened in 1958, the only thing that's not up-to-the-second new is the namesake who started it. Mr. Segal has always had a crisp vision of an establishment confident enough to create, not follow, trends. You're likely to see entertainment-industry stylists trolling the aisles, picking out next week's outfits for their starlet and leading man clients. There are designer labels aplenty, and prices match. (420 and 500 Broadway, Santa Monica; tel. 310/394-7535; www.fredsegal.com)

2. Kitson.

This celebrity favorite usually has a swarm of paparazzi buzzing outside, but it's worth pushing past them to see what's definitively trendy this (or any) season. The duds -- mostly printed tees, denim in all colors, and funky footwear -- are overpriced, and anyone who doesn't take US Weekly overly seriously might roll their eyes at the clientele. But despite the caveats, this is an L.A. staple that any committed fashionista should experience at least once. (115 S. Robertson Blvd., West Hollywood; tel. 310/859-2652; www.shopkitson.com)

3. m. fredric. Fred Levine, the father of Maroon 5 lead singer Adam Levine, started m. fredric in 1980; today, its 26 retail spaces throughout L.A. comprise one of the city's oldest and largest boutique chains. Still a family-run operation, this collection of shops sells cutting-edge attire for men, women, and kids. (Various locations; tel. 818/597-0212; www.mfredric.com)

4. Ron Herman.

With locations in Malibu, Brentwood, Beverly Hills, and on Melrose Avenue, Ron Herman tends to carry the hardest-to-get items; sometimes there are lines out the door comprised of in-the-know women and men waiting eagerly to buy the latest white-hot designer item. The downside is that the staff can be a touch snooty. Various locations; tel. 323/852-5000; www.ronherman.com)

5. Santee Alley.

In downtown's Fashion District, this multi-block alley is packed with colorful stands selling the latest and greatest in L.A. fashion at wholesale prices. Though the atmosphere is gritty, loud, and competitively crowded, you pay at least half as much as you would for the exact same item on Melrose or elsewhere in L.A. It's acceptable, too, to negotiate for an even better bargain. (Off Olympic Blvd. between Santee St. and Maple Ave.; tel. 213/488-1153; www.fashiondistrict.org)

6. DNA Clothing Co.

For voguish name brands at half-cost, head to this outlet. DNA has been known to stock Rock & Republic, Hudson, Free People, Velvet, Romeo & Juliet Couture, Tulle, and premium Levi's at significant discount, though the store's friendly staff can't formally acknowledge the labels they sell "due to agreements with our suppliers who don't want to hurt their regular price business." (7519 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood; tel. 323/882-8464 and 411 Rose Ave., Venice; tel. 310/399-0341; www.dnaclothing.com)

7. Roni B.

Started and owned by a veteran of the Beverly Hills outpost of Barneys New York, this relatively new boutique is in a boudoir-style space stocked with well-priced purses, jewelry, and the latest looks from up-and-coming labels like Scrapbook and Level 99. Service is personalized and attentive, and proceeds from certain items go to charity. (13626 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; tel. 818/501-5115; www.ronib.com)

8. Sirens & Sailors. For those edgy, sassy kidsters over in Echo Park, this is a dream shop tailored just for them. The inventory is showcased in a repurposed old house and manages to commingle old-fashioned frilliness with a punky 'tude. Women and men find one-of-a-kind new and vintage pieces from notable local clothiers like Grey Ant, plus ones you haven't heard of -- yet. (1104 Mohawk St., Echo Park; tel. 213/483-5423; www.sirensandsailors.com)

9. Valley Indoor Swap Meet. Panorama City and Pomona, both suburbs of L.A., each boast a massive indoor swap meet that house a maze of more than 500 booths selling anything from clothes to art to cosmetics to jewelry to produce -- and almost everything is remarkably affordable. You'll have to sift through some junk, but there are many diamonds to be found in the rough. (14650 Parthenia St., Panorama City; tel. 818/893-5273; and 1600 East Holt Blvd., Pomona; tel. 909/620-5083; www.indoorswap.com)

10. Kristin Londgren. The namesake's own designs -- mainly flowy dresses and sleek pieces for the home -- are dramatically presented in an architectural space that also holds a mélange of unique jewelry and übercreative accessories. (8308 West 3rd St., West Hollywood; tel. 323/653-9200; www.kristinlondgren.com)

Talk with other Frommers.com members in our California Forums.