Los Angeles shopping is some of the best in the world, attracting luxury-obsessed tourists from across the globe pay pilgrimage to the “Golden Triangle” of Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. It’s a great place to visit and ogle the outlandish fashions, the rare sports cars parked on the street, and the insanely high-end shops at the Rodeo Collection, one of the world’s most expensive malls. But if you actually want to make a purchase, you’d better be pulling in some serious dough. But fear not: for those of us without the luxury of six-figure incomes or rich uncles, there’s still plenty of great shopping around Los Angeles.
The Last Bookstore: Labyrinth for $1 books
In a 20,000 square foot loft in Downtown LA’s Spring Arts Tower, the Last Bookstore has been hailed as one of the 20 most beautiful bookstores in the world and frequently tops Best-of-LA lists. And while the ground floor’s used books, albums and comics go for reasonable prices, it’s the huge loft space above that houses the truly glorious thrift find. It’s the Labyrinth Above The Last Bookstore where you’ll find over 100,000 used books all for $1. It’s built in a flowing maze that takes advantage of the loft space’s weird details and showcases art from local artists. If this wasn’t already insanely cool, half of all the labyrinth’s proceeds go tutoring homeless kids on Skid Row.
Address: 453 S Spring St, Los Angeles, CA 90013
Great gifts for: graduation, book-lovers, vinyl snobs
Daiso Japan: All your Kawaii Essentials
In Japan, Daiso is the 100 yen store, so, basically the Japanese version of the dollar store. Unless it’s marked otherwise, it’s only $1.50 for all your kawaii essentials– erasers shaped like ramen noodles, sushi stationary, Japanese snacks, colorful kitchenwares. The really great gift stuff like yoga mats, porcelain sake cups, will run you around $7. There are three Daiso locations in Los Angeles: smaller stores on Sawtelle and Western, but the huge 8,300 square-foot behemoth in the Little Tokyo Galleria.
Address: 333 S Alameda St, Ste 114, Los Angeles, CA 90013
Great gifts for: graduation, stocking stuffers, kids, fans of Japanese art and culture
It’s A Wrap: Clothes Fresh of the Set
It’s A Wrap Production Wardrobe Sales sells the used clothes fresh off the set of a movie or TV show. It’s generally higher quality and it’s rarely damaged or dirty. If you’re a sample size, this place is made for you. If the shop gets a major haul from a recently wrapped TV season or movie, it will labels major sections with the production and gives a little more info on where the piece came from. It’s a place to get novelty and costume pieces and to get gifts for film buffs, but you’re paying for the showbiz association– there are better general thrift stores in the area for selection and price.
Address: 3315 W Magnolia Blvd, Burbank, CA 91505
Great gifts for: Movie and TV fans, Valentine’s Day, aspiring actors
FIDM Scholarship Store: The Perfect Balance of Quality and Affordability
As you probably gather from the name, the FIDM Scholarship Store is part of the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, downtown LA’s nearly 50 year-old private college for fashion, entertainment, beauty and interior design. To support the students, top fashion companies and retailers donate merchandise for sale at wholesale prices. The store is staffed by students and all the proceeds go toward scholarships funds. The FIDM store strikes that perfect balance of quality, originality and affordability with excellent jewelry, bridal, and fabric sections on an ever-rotating inventory.
Address: 919 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90015
Great gifts for: Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, brides-to-be
Melrose Trading Post: For Lovers of Art and Esoterica
The Melrose Trading Post is $3 to enter and parking is nothing short of a nightmare, but it’s absolutely worth it. As part of urban-arts non-profit, the Greenway Arts Alliance, the Melrose Trading Post funds grants to the LA Unified School District. With dozens of booths from locally-owned and operated vendors, the Melrose Trading Post keeps its street cred by only offering applications to vendors in the categories of antiques, collectibles, art, vintage items, rare items, and recycled, repurposed or eco-friendly items. Every Sunday, most are cash only, although the Square app is starting to make appearances. Just east of the Trading Post on Melrose Ave are a string of thrift and boutique stores hoping to cash in on the Sunday foot traffic with sale racks out on the sidewalk.
Address: 7850 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036 (outside the Fairfax High School)
Great gifts for: Housewarming, wedding, lovers of art and esoterica
Santee Alley: Out in the Open
Take the opposite of the Melrose Trading Post and you might have Santee Alley in Downtown Los Angeles. Going through the Santee Alley is its own experience and you need to have some love of the game to make it worth it. If walking through a cramped, open-air market of stuff, a lot of it cheaply made and imported from a factory overseas, sounds like hell to you, skip Santee. But if the promise of haggling down a leather jacket, designer perfume, costume, wig, or statement shoe gives you an adrenaline rush, Santee will be your jam. A lot of places will accept credit, but before you swipe your plastic, you must try that classic haggle move of asking how much it’ll be in cash. You’ll work up an appetite and Santee keeps it real with street hot dogs and fruit (with optional chile powder, natch) for about $3 a pop. It’s a great place to grab sporting fan gear, funky kid’s toys, sunglasses, beauty products.
(Santee is fun, but please don’t buy animals from there. They aren’t properly cared for and many die within a few days. It’s illegal, but it continues because people keep buying them. There are so many wonderful places to get a pet in Los Angeles, so please, don’t contribute to the irresponsible pet sales here.)
Address: 210 E Olympic Blvd, Ste 202, Los Angeles, CA 90015
Great gifts for: fashionistas, performers, stocking-stuffers
Jet Rag: For the Open Minded
If you have an idea of what you’re looking for, skip Jet Rag’s $1 sale. But if you’ve got an open mind and would be equally psyched for, say, a vintage Alf transfer t-shirt as a cool throwback 70s prom dress or plastic platform heels, Jet Rag is for you. Everything is a dollar, so you’ll be sifting through a lot of duds, but there’s gold to be had here and that’s what keep Angelenos making the Sunday pilgrimage. It’s cash only (of course) and has a strict no-holding policy. Every hour or so, they dump new bundles into the mix, so arriving early isn’t a benefit unless you plan on staying the whole day. The Sunday sale pros will tell you to bring plenty of singles and a big bag to stash your finds.
Address: 825 N La Brea Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90038
Great gifts for: vintage enthusiasts, Halloween, those unafraid of a bold fashion statement