What’s Checking: An Independent Boutique District Grows at Row DTLA
After six years of running a boutique in an established retail neighborhood in Los Angeles’ Echo Park area, Whitney Bickers rolled the dice and moved her shop, Myrtle, to a new neighborhood that has yet to register on many fashion-savvy people’s radars.
It’s Row DTLA. Located in an industrial stretch of downtown Los Angeles, it’s 30 acres of industrial buildings—some constructed 100 years ago—that are being transformed into a neighborhood of high-end restaurants and boutiques. The warehouse-like buildings were built by the Southern Pacific Railroad between 1917 and 1923 and played a large role in the distribution of produce to stores in the United States. The complex has been transformed into a commercial center with restaurants, creative offices and retail spots.
Some of Row DTLA’s boutiques opened for business in September. Myrtle and her neighbors LCD and Galerie.LA opened in January. All the businesses are intended to have an independent and adventurous spirit. The mix of boutiques sealed the deal for Bickers.
Leading streetwear boutique retailer Bodega is scheduled to open a highly anticipated 2.5-story location in mid-February. High-end homewares and design emporium A+R opened a location in the gentrified neighborhood along with a boutique for San Francisco Bay Area designer Erica Tanov, which took a bow in December.
The enclave’s businesses are still taking shape. Neighbors will include an upcoming popular San Francisco eatery Tartine Manufactory, which is expected to open at Row DTLA later this year.
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Headquartered in San Francisco, Mission Workshop manufactures most of its clothes domestically. Initially made as technical apparel for cyclists in urban areas, the brand branched out into outdoor-lifestyle looks.
Mission Workshop’s Row DTLA store opened in September, said Eric Brunt, the store manager. “We saw the energy here. We liked the grittiness of downtown. It fit our brand,” Brunt said.
The brand’s popular looks include the Grandmaster hoodie. It retails for $255. It offers a tailored fit and is water resistant, lightweight and warm, Brunt said. There’s the merino wool pullover hoodie; the Faroe, which retails for $189; and the lightweight, waterproof Orion jacket, which retails for $445. It’s made from a performance fabric from Japan’s Toray company.
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Dechel Mckillian started Galerie.LA in 2016 as a pure-play boutique for eco-friendly women’s clothing. After producing a few pop-up shops, she wanted a permanent spot where people could try on the independent brands that Galerie.LA represents.
On Jan. 8, she opened a 1,500-square-foot space for eco-minded brands. Various categories of clothes are showcased on color-coated boards at the store. Yellow is eco-friendly. Blue is for ethical, which often means fair-trade clothing. Pink stands for artisanal or, often, one-of-a-kind pieces.
Since opening, popular items have been the shirt-sleeve dress made by Study NY, which started at Brooklyn Fashion + Design Accelerator, an ethical fashion hub founded by the Pratt Institute, a fine-arts and industrial design school in New York. It retails for $240.
Triarchy’s repurposed vintage denim x linen jean has been gaining notice at Galerie.LA. The Los Angeles–based Triarchy constructed the top third of the piece from denim with the legs made from linen. The pant retails for $349.
The Echo & Air brand offers the Arcosanti jumpsuit, made of brushed Tencel. It retails for $298.
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LCD stands for Lust, Covet, Desire. It’s for the woman on a quest for independent, emerging designers and new looks, said Geraldine Chung, LCD’s founder.
LCD’s story started in Los Angeles’ Venice section. Chung set up her boutique on Venice’s Lincoln Boulevard in 2016. She closed the Venice location and in July expanded into a boutique at 1121 Abbot Kinney Blvd. In September she opened a 1,000-square-foot shop at Row DTLA.
The shop’s look was designed by fashion and accessories designer Hillary Taymour. Collaborations are a big deal at LCD. Chung worked with designer J.Hannah to make two exclusive nail-polish colors—watermelon and iris—for the store.
One of the bestselling items at the boutique is a T-shirt collaboration between streetwear phenomenon Virgil Abloh and conceptual artist Jenny Holzer. Bearing the statement “Abuse of Power Comes as No Surprise” and “Abuse of Flower Comes as No Surprise,” the T-shirts retail for $100 and raise funds for Planned Parenthood.
Other popular looks include Sandy Liang’s Minskin dress. It retails for $795. The asymmetrical sequin dress is for after-party wear, Chung said.
Another popular look is the Deacon, a hand-distressed pocket tee by the Los Angeles–based Billy label. It retails for $180. It is made of Japanese cotton and is hand distressed by the designer, Holly Jovenall.
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Myrtle is devoted to independent brands owned by women and designed by women for women. It’s an underserved niche, Bickers said.
Jeans by downtown Los Angeles–brand Father’s Daughter have been very popular at the shop. But dresses and jumpsuits have been creating a stir. Samantha Pleet dresses have been big sellers, and people have liked Heinui jumpsuits and the retro-inspired tops of house brand Myrtle. The shop’s core price points range from $100 to $250.