It's not that we hate LA—and even if, hypothetically, we did hate LA, we would not hate it more than, say, Fresno (humidity, high crime), Vanport, Oregon (flood almost killed our mom) or Long Beach (civic face-lifts like Joan Rivers'). It's just that we don't need LA's fashion hand-me-downs any more.
There was a time when, if your fashion sense went beyond a white-on-white shirt or a T-shirt and chinos, you needed La Brea, Beverly, Rodeo Drive or Melrose. You even needed LA's thrift stores and junk shops, back before thrifting came to public attention. LA had great thrift—still does.
But so does Orange County. Where fashion's concerned, we haven't really needed to visit anything north of Long Beach in, oh, about 10 years? Because everything's down here.
The surfwear industry is headquartered here—and Californians officially live in T-shirts and jeans now. Surfing may have gotten famous in Malibu, thanks to the likes of Kathy Kohner-Zuckerman, the real "Gidget," but Huntington Beach actually is Surf City. And all the name sportswear companies are here: Quiksilver, Volcom and Gotcha are just three behemoths that come to mind.
Their progeny are here, too: young clothing companies such as Generic Youth, started by ex-Modern Amusement head Jeff Yamamoto and his daughter Coco; RVCA, which is quietly building a massive collection of art by boardsport-inspired artists that threatens to rival its fashion line (even though both use some of the same graphics); Monument, which mixes Asian-inspired deconstructionist graphics with design innovation; and Armada—which bills itself as the only ski maker in Costa Mesa.
We have such high-end haberdashers as Burberry, Cole Haan and St. John Knits, which is headquartered here; just visit southcoastplaza.com. Or try shopfashionisland.com. It's like having two Beverly Centers in one county—less than 15 minutes apart.
If you like lowbrow, arty stuff, we have Paul Frank Industries, whose mascot Julius the monkey was so hot a few years ago that he landed licensing deals with everyone from Hello Kitty to Shag. We've got Shag, too; the Lemon Heights artist Josh Agle, whose exotica/jet set-sparked paintings inspired a play in Los Angeles that opened in March. His whimsical prints of Yeti, beatniks, Shriners, lounge singers and recreational drunks—not to mention his licensed line of mini-bars—have helped lubricate a landslide of new interest in vintage leisure culture. (LA needs more Yeti; what else is there besides Bigfoot Lodge?)
More to the point, we have specialty boutiques here that sell many of these brands all in one place—stores such as the Closet or the Active Ride shop, both in Costa Mesa—which are a hell of a lot closer than their LA counterparts, Fred Segal and Lisa Klein. It's still a big deal when LA imports the hot Orange County brands, and we like seeing hometown people like RVCA getting fat on those northern dollars.
But we'd have to drive all the way to LA to shop at Fred Segal—and LA is so fickle that by the time we got there, they wouldn't be selling our favorite designers anyway.