What’s Checking: The Arts District Keeps Its Roots in Independent Fashion
No place in downtown Los Angeles’ Arts District has changed as much as the space that is now the Rogue Collective boutique.
From 1979 to 2001, the boutique was the site of Al’s Bar, a dingy, graffiti-scarred space that was the site of the first gigs for some of the most popular West Coast rock bands including Beck, Los Lobos, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Nirvana. Surrounded by a decaying neighborhood of artists’ lofts, the club developed not only a regional but also a national reputation as a place to take musical risks.
But the stage where musical careers were launched has a much different use now. In 2017, it became Rogue Collective, a space to display jeans and leather jackets. Rogue Collective moved into Al’s Bar just a few years after boutiques such as Apolis: Common Gallery and Guerilla Atelier started selling high-end clothing in the Arts District.
During the past few years, the neighborhood, lodged between Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo and Skid Row, has been the site of a construction boom for lofts and creative office space.
Art lovers attend openings at the Hauser & Wirth gallery and dine next door at the critically acclaimed restaurant Manuela. Last year, famed fashion retailer Dover Street Market opened an emporium in the Arts District. For an Al’s Bar regular, the neighborhood might be unrecognizable. Colin T. McCarthy, Rogue Collective’s vice president and creative director, said that he has no doubt that the place will continue to change.
“A Verizon or a Pinkberry may move here someday,” McCarthy said of the mobile-phone shops and the frozen-dessert franchises seen in suburban neighborhoods. But right now, the Arts District continues to be a place where people with independent outlooks gather to buy their clothes.
305 S. Hewitt St.
Independent and ethically made fashions have been the focus of Rogue Collective. Local labels also are very important.
The shop’s house brand, also called Rogue Collective, is made in Los Angeles. Bestselling items from the brand include the Marco polo shirt, which retails for $88 and comes in several color ways including navy, olive and black. The polo’s fabric feels soft, but the fabric of the shirt’s collar has a raw edge, which gives it a bohemian, threadbare look.
The Rogue Collective brand also makes women’s styles. A popular look includes the City Walker pant. It’s made with Tencel linen, features cropped ankles and retails for $128.
The Laer label produces limited-edition and custom-made leather and motorcycle jackets in a Los Angeles atelier. One of its motorcycle jackets has been retailing at Rogue Collective for $895. Los Pepes is another downtown Los Angeles brand with a motorcycle-lifestyle influence. Rogue Collective sells the brand’s Concept #1 jacket for $298. This chore jacket features special zip pockets sewn into the front and the back of the jacket.
1820 Industrial St., #230
On the second floor of an art-studio building, Andrew Dryden and Joseph Quiñones have run a digital shop for Departamento since 2017. In July, they opened a bricks-and-mortar shop for unique looks from designer brands such as Marni and Lanvin, as well as from brands not well known in the United States such as Camiel Fortgens.
The shop’s customers come from Los Angeles and around the world. Many of them are devoted fans of niche brands. Sales conversion is high because many of these brands don’t have wide distribution. Finding a point of sale for these brands is a big deal, said Dryden, who worked as an architect before starting in retail.
Popular items at Departamento include shirting from Spanish label Loewe, which is owned by LVMH. The brand’s signature is shirting that mixes contemporary design with traditional craft. Retail price points range from $590 to $1,500.
East London style has been influential in global fashion in the past decade. The casual, street but fashion-forward style of London’s East End is a focus of English designer Martine Rose. The label’s hoodies have been selling from $400 to $500 at Departamento.
Camiel Fortgens, an Amsterdam-headquartered label, is using suiting fabric to make bottoms retailing for $440 in a sweatpants silhouette.
2008 E. 7th St.
More than a decade ago, Omar Quaimbao and Larry Incognito opened a couple of high-end streetwear shops under the nameplate Commonwealth in Washington, D.C., and Virginia Beach, Va. In November 2017, they opened a 1,500-square-foot boutique at the edge of the Arts District, around 7th and Mateo streets.
This corner of the Arts District has attracted more boutiques. Korean women’s label Arch The recently opened a store a block away. Another streetwear store, Juice, opened down the street in August.
Commonwealth distinguished itself through projects such as developing a limited-edition, co-branded shoe with Adidas. The shop also produces a self-named house label. A top-selling item is the Commonwealth core logo lightweight hooded fleece. It retails for $120 and is made in Los Angeles.
Another top-selling item is the polar-fleece Blocked Hoodie by New York–headquartered Aimé Leon Dore. The fleece hoodie, which comes in green, red, blue and gray, retails for $220.
While hoodies are big at Commonwealth, they are not the only story. A reimagining of the Hawaiian shirt by Japanese brand Wacko Maria has been selling well. The long-sleeve shirt features graphics of 16th-century Japanese art. It retails for $485.
Hatchet Outdoor Supply Co.
941 E. 2nd St., #101
Gene Han hoped to give the Arts District a serious alternative when he opened Hatchet Outdoor Supply Co. in 2016. The 1,800-square-foot boutique sold clothes and gear for camping. Opening a camping store in an arts-loving, urban area is not a wild idea, Han said. He opened the first location for Hatchet Outdoor Supply Co. in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 2013.
The store sells lanterns for the campsite, backpacks, flasks, hiking footwear and even hatchets. A strong focus for the store is clothing. Some of the shop’s bestselling item are T-shirts and sweatshirts from workwear brand Carhartt, said Kai Lee, the store’s manager. In the past few years, Carhartt has enjoyed a fashionable cachet beyond its roots as an outfitter for manual laborers. At Hatchet, retail price points for the tees range from $40 to $60. Prices for sweatshirts range from $90 to $100.
Also popular are field jackets from Topo Designs. The jackets feature camouflage designs, but they also offer a sleek, fitted silhouette. They retail for $129. Another bestseller is the Kyle wool-felt jacket from the Norse Projects label. Inspired by military jackets, the Kyle comes in various colors including mustard.