PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 February, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 February, 2001, 12:00am


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Pirate queens, hard rappers, retro slackers, bright young things and sexy grandmas: Los Angeles fashion is, like the city itself, a post-modern porridge of influences, ethnicities and eccentricities. In the first of a new monthly series on international street style, we find out what's hip in Hollywood . . .

Urban outfitters: Shopping in LA

If you're in search of trendy bargains, make sure that your next trip to Los Angeles coincides with the last Friday of the month. That is when California Mart (110 East Ninth Street; (213) 630 3737), the building in downtown LA where numerous local designers are represented through showrooms, opens up to the general public for its monthly sample sales. Nowhere else will you find this many sparkling tees, beaded dresses and low-slung jeans at such great prices - albeit all in small sizes.

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For those not inclined to wait, Los Angeles offers variety like few cities in the world; from the polished megastores of Beverly Hills to the charming boutiques on Melrose, if there's something in particular you're looking for, you'd be hard-pressed not to find it in LA.

Such as mohair sweaters hand-knitted by a former sitcom star, for example. Justine Bateman, who spent years on the hit Michael J Fox vehicle Family Ties, has abandoned all notions of Hollywood and turned to fashion; she now spends her days knitting spiderwebby sweaters. But there is nothing mumsy about these: featuring touches like long, flared-edge sleeves, they retail for around US$2,000 (HK$15,580), and are being snapped up by style-savvy celebrities.

Bateman's label is one of the many on offer at Beige (7274 Beverly Boulevard; (323) 549-0064). The shop also stocks hot homegrown labels including Rima, Rhyme and Josh & He Yang. The best-sellers: sexy jeans from Frankie B, feature the lowest cut and the shortest crotch imaginable.

The same cut is replicated on jumpsuits - very Farrah Fawcett - which are having a bit of a comeback here. If you've got the flash sensibility of, say, the Dixie Chicks, there is only one place to go - Lord's (7526 Melrose Avenue; (323) 653-6202). This haven of made-to-order tailoring is a must for rock stars, who come here to get edgy, second-skin leather pieces.

For one-stop shopping, you can find just about anything you're looking for on Melrose Avenue, around the ultra-chic Fred Segal (8100 Melrose Avenue; (323) 655-3734). All shopping expeditions stop and end with a visit to this shopping mecca, which carries only the very latest, always before anybody else gets it. Barkly Hope - Items For Princesses (7763 Melrose Avenue; (323) 658-5683) sells just that: panelled pants, super-cute denim lines and pretty takes on chiffon. Also big: jeans with lacing up the sides and on the front. Also check out Liza Bruce (7977 Melrose Avenue; (323) 655-5012): the British designer makes very sexy bikinis for serious babes.

Then scoot over to Naked (181 North Martel; (323) 964-0222) for artsy, architectural pieces. Also a must-see: Laura Urbinati (867 Sunset Boulevard), which is said to have the finest collection of Martin Margiela pieces in town. Nearby is the Tracey Ross boutique (8595 Sunset Boulevard; (310) 854-1996), which pulls together all of the season's key looks in an easy-to-digest way.

Vintage remains big news, with Decades (8214 Melrose Avenue; (323) 655-0223) leading the fray. Owner Cameron Silver is the resident expert on all things 60s and Pucci - and with his couture-led collection, be prepared to spend.

But for golden oldies at more affordable prices, Wasteland (7428 Melrose Avenue; (323) 653-3028) is a good bet. We found 10-year-old Chanel suits for US$225, Lanvin shirt-dresses from the 70s for US$150 and non-designer label goodies for well under US$50. Just stay away from the beaded lambswool cardigans - very Yue Hwa Emporium.

Of course, no shopping trip in Los Angeles is complete without a stroll down Rodeo Drive, especially now that international designers are embracing the bigger-is-better philosophy. Major names such as Valentino (#240-250), Prada (#343) and Louis Vuitton (#295) have staked their claims on huge chunks of street-front property along the gilded avenue.

By year's end, Christian Dior (#230) plans to open a 12,000 square foot boutique carrying the entire ready-to-wear line. Tod's (#333) has just opened a three-storey, 7,500 square foot flagship store, which features the latest in must-have retail concepts: a room exclusively for celebrities and their stylists. After all, the Oscars are just weeks away.