Montana’s Past, Present and Future is Female
Jill Roberts opened her first self-named boutique 24 years ago on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica, Calif.
While the business of retail has gone through big changes over the past two decades, she said that Montana Avenue has remained the same place it was when she opened during the Clinton administration and has remained a hub for independent women’s specialty boutiques.
Over the past few decades, larger specialty-retail chain stores have moved onto the 11-block district. But these retailers, including Planet Blue, Sweaty Betty, Chico’s and Splendid, did not change the look nor feel of the area, Roberts said. “It’s a tree-lined block. Women push strollers on the sidewalk. What could be better?” she said.
About 29 Montana Avenue boutiques sell women’s fashions. Only a couple of shops, such as Enda King, sell men’s styles.
Independent boutique Femelle opened at 1627 Montana Ave. in July. Owner Brooke Feder said the street gets good foot traffic with the great majority of shoppers being locals who enjoy the thoroughfare.
The mere fact that Montana Avenue is a busy pedestrian shopping district in a car-obsessed Los Angeles makes it unique, said Melissa Selbert, vice president of merchandising at Planet Blue. “They want the boutique feeling,” Selbert said of the Montana shopper. “It is what we pride ourselves on. It is the experience we serve.”
1627 Montana Ave., Suite B
Brooke Feder chose to open on Montana Avenue because she thought her retail concept fit in with the neighborhood. “I also wanted to fill a gap,” she said. She felt there were no boutiques selling clothes at a mid-range level. Femelle is a shop where the clothes are not expensive but not cheap either.
Femelle is Feder’s first retail venture. Previously she worked as a stylist. The boutique’s merchandise is a mix of Los Angeles and Los Angeles–friendly styles designed in Australia. The shop also stocks brands that she finds on shopping trips to France.
Top-selling items include the Carmen ruffle dress by Robert Rodriguez, which retails for $535. Another popular item is the Plaza dress from BA&SH featuring ethnic-style embroidery and retailing for $315.
Australian brand Camilla and Marc’s Peyton deep-V blouse retails for $420 and features ruched sleeves and floral fabric. Another Australian brand that is popular is Stevie May, whose lacy Aralia top retails for $220.
920 Montana Ave.
After serving the Montana Avenue woman for 24 years, Roberts knows this woman has a specific look. “It’s jeans, tees and cashmere sweaters. It’s nothing too fancy,” she said.
The top-selling items reflect the neighborhood’s sartorial point of view. A cashmere sweater from the boutique’s self-named Jill Roberts brand is popular, coming in two styles and selling for $300.
A sweatpant is another sought-after item. A hot brand is Los Angeles–headquartered Freecity, whose Super Fluff OG sweatpant is inspired by the first sweatpants distributed by the brand. It retails for $172. The Ulla Johnson brand’s dresses have been selling well, with prices ranging from $295 to $795.
In March, Jill Roberts released Honorine, a resort lifestyle collection of linen sundresses and gauze beach covers, which retail from $275 to $425.
1407 Montana Ave.
The Only Hearts boutique is one of Montana’s veteran shops, with the lingerie-focused brand celebrating 30 years on the avenue this year. For the past 24 years, Lisa Fremont has been the store’s manager and buyer.
For all those years, Only Hearts has been an advocate of “inner/outerwear,” or lingerie that can be worn as a fashion statement. Certain lingerie pieces can be worn as a top.
In 2016, Kendall Jenner was photographed wearing Only Hearts’ Second Skin bodysuit as a top, which continues to be a bestseller for women wearing it as a top or underneath a dress. It retails for $52.
Lingerie and pajamas made out of organic cotton are big sellers, with an organic-cotton pajama set retailing for $141.
Another brisk-selling item is the Chemette slip, which retails for $140. The lacy slip falls to the thigh and has adjustable straps.
One of the most popular items in the store is the brand’s racer-back bralette, which retails for $45 and is often worn when women practice yoga or exercise at the gym.
800 14th St.
Montana Avenue has the reputation of being a street where mothers shop with their daughters, said Melissa Selbert, Planet Blue’s merchandising vice president. The 3,580-square-foot shop opened in 2004 and makes it a point to offer something for every age group.
A popular look for younger women is the Sexpot minidress by Planet Blue’s Blue Life label. It retails for $150. It is a must-have among the festival crowd and it’s popular for cocktails, too.
For a woman who doesn’t want to show too much skin, another top seller is Blue Life’s Baylee dress, retailing for $196. It features a leopard print with Lurex metallic thread running through the pattern.
Blue Life’s Coda shirtdress is easy to wear and retails for $191. It also works well with the neighborhood’s style. “It’s important to have a mixture in the store. There are things that are bold and things that you don’t have to think too much about,” Selbert said.
The animal-print trend continues with another popular item, the Sundry label’s leopard-print drape top, which retails for $118, and the matching leopard-print pant, which retails for $128.
Agolde’s high-waisted Jaden denim cut-off short has been popular and retails for $128. It features distressed fabric and a vintage wash that make it look well worn. Another sought-after piece is Agolde’s Zephyr high-rise denim pant, which features hems cropped above the ankle. It retails for $198.