The 90 block Garment District in downtown Los Angeles is a place that may have been obscured by all the discount stores and malls that have come into existence over the last 20 years. This wholesale and retail shopper’s mecca is one I have visited periodically for a very long time. In high school a good friend of mine and I would shop there and then come home with ideas and almost one of a kind items after an exhausting trek around the district. My friend’s mother was a seamstress who worked in the district during World War 11.
Today the district has a board, an improvement mission and is referred to as the L.A. Fashion District. It is located in the downtown area from 7th Street to the North and the Santa Monica Freeway to the South. In the West from Spring and Main Street and the eastern portion San Pedro Street.
This trendy section of the L.A. Fashion District is open 365 days of the year. It hosts some of the more unique shops you will find in the district. During the week many of the shops are only open to wholesalers in the fashion industry. In order to qualify for admission you need to have a particular business license that essentially is your ticket for deep discounts. On the weekend, Santee Alley opens in full for the public at large. There may be isolated shops that are closed to the public, but for the most part Saturday is their busiest day of the week. The hours of operation are 10:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.
The type of items you will find on Santee Alley in this festive atmosphere range from clothing, accessories, fabrics, notions and flowers. The fun part is to search for hidden designer fashions that may have found themselves in the district for one reason or another. For the most part the designers may not be familiar to you, but very interesting in design and uniqueness. These design items are reduced by 30 to 70 percent. If you are looking for well known designers and labels you will not be disappointed.
Sometimes just a minor stitch mistake will take an otherwise exclusive fashion item off the boutique truck and on the racks of the Fashion District. If you are handy at all or don’t mind a little glitch in an obscure place on the garment the discount is astronomical. You will find beautiful wedding dresses that would sell for $700 on up for less than $100. Silk pant suits and dresses for $25. Handbags and accessories for prices that will astound you.
The fabric and notions in the Fashion District will amaze you in terms of being a forecast of colors and weaves that precede the public’s knowledge. In the district you can buy end of bolts or remnants large enough to produce suits, dresses and then some that have been used by the larger fashion manufacturers. The fashion colors and combinations of weaves may not even appear for a year or more. You have to develop an eye for what will be the fashion statement for several seasons in advance. My friend’s mother would tell us to look for unusual pieces of material and see if there were combinations that appealed to us as trendy. I recall a period where lime and deep purple as a contrast color became popular some three seasons later and we saw it at the fashion district first . Today, the rules of fashion are so individual you can develop your own trend and if it is unique so much the better.
Santee Street and 9th Avenue:
The area around Olympic Blvd and Santee Street to 9th Avenue is the spot for bridal dresses, brides maid dresses and accessories. This area will have an incredible assortment of almost one of a kind items you will be able to choose among. For high school students the selection of prom dresses is vast. These dresses will promise you with a unique look at a fraction of the cost it would cost at a retail boutique or high end fashion center.
12th Street and Pico Blvd:
This is the children’s center for fashion in the L.A. Fashion District. Items that you will find here would sell for premium prices, but you can often times pick up great bargains for as little as $1. Children’s fashions as everyone knows can be astronomical in price. The fact that children seem to grow faster than fashion makes this an ideal place to pick up branded items at savings of better than 50 percent.
Los Angeles Street and between 7th and 9th Street:
There is a wide range of men’s athletic wear, suits, shirts and items you will find in the L.A. Fashion District. The area is quite large and also embraces Main Street and Santee Street. Whatever the brand name is you are looking for the district will have an item that will delight you. Whether you are looking for a unique leisure outfit or a silk dress shirt the district has it all. Men’s fashions are fully discounted in the district.
The Flower Market:
Along Wall Street between 7th and 8th Street is the world acclaimed L.A. Flower Market. If you love flowers and arrangements, this is a sight that will knock you over. It is hard to describe the sight and smells of the Flower Market. The greatest feature is that you are shopping with the pros in the florist shops. If you have a flare for design and ingenuity you can decorate any party or event for a fraction of what it would cost in retail stores.
Wholesale Sample Sales:
The major marts like the California Market Center, The Cooper Design Center, Gerry Building and the New Mart is closed to the public as a general rule. The great exception is that the last Friday of the month these exclusively wholesale marts are often times open to the public. The sample sales are usually small sizes for garments, but the bulk of the samples are varieties of items you may not see anytime soon on retail shelves. The terms of the sale are cash only. Call a head to make sure the Sample Sale has not been preempted by some event.
Whether you are looking for designer sunglasses, perfume, accessories and handbags, garments, fabrics, notions or any other category under the sun the Fashion District will have a selection to choose among. As an example there are well over 12 shops that sell branded sunglasses in the area of Los Angeles Street, Santee Street and 7th Street.
Fashion is the name and saving money is a game. You will find the experience of mingling with the fashion icons of the industry a treat and the excitement along the alleys and byways of the Fashion District better than a day at the carnival. The most important advice is to wear comfortable shoes and bring a bottle of water. Fashion can be trying on your endurance factor and your feet, but not your wallet in L.A.’s Fashion District.