Venice Beach, California
Long an enclave for artists drawn to the west coast by its easy seaside living, Los Angeles' Venice Beach now counts less-creative types with more capital among its residents. Luring cash from the acquisitive arrivals is a bevy of art galleries, cafes and boutiques along Abbot Kinney Boulevard.
Behind the electric blue facade at Surfing Cowboys (below right; 1624 Abbot Kinney Boulevard, tel: 1 310 450 4891; www.surfingcowboys.
com) everyone seems high on life. Rare psychedelic surf posters and vintage photographs (from US$200) line the walls while mid-century modern furniture by Frank Lloyd Wright and unsung Californian designers (from US$145) fills the floor. The shop's 'Charlie Don't Surf' T-shirts (US$22) and hoodies (US$45) have a cult following.
Metrosexual men can realise their linen and silk-lined dreams at shabby chic Kevin Simon (1358 Abbot Kinney Boulevard, tel: 1 310 392 4630; www.kevinsimonclothing.
com). Lightweight poet coats (US$530) and tuxedo shirts (US$345) feel barely there. Brides can mix and match from Simon's existing couture designs (from US$2,500). Singletons can don linen Saunter skirts (US$388).
Hollywood starlets such as Jennifer Garner choose their Catherine Malandrino ruffle blouses (US$145) and feminine skirts (US$375), along with embellished bags by Isabella Fiore (US$500 and up), at Claudia Milan (1350 Abbot Kinney Boulevard, tel:1 310 581 2964; www.claudiamilan.
com). The sombre grey exterior of Colcha (1336 Abbot Kinney Boulevard, tel: 1 310 392 3600; colchahome.com) belies the exotic treasures within. The lifestyle shop sells everything from Mexican nesting tables (US$225) to stuffed animals (US$50). Don't hold her past, as Ozzy Osbourne's costume designer, against Pamela Barish, whose eponymous shop (1327? Abbot Kinney Boulevard, tel: 1 310 314 4490; www.pamelabarish.com) beckons romantics with chiffon blouses and slip dresses (US$600).
Trainer freaks swap the secrets of finding obscure Japanese brands at Waraku (1225 Abbot Kinney Boulevard, tel: 1 310 452 5300; www.warakuusa.com), where limited-edition Nikes, Pumas and Converse start to look common alongside Namitatsu rabbit-graphic slip-ons (US$80). Racks crammed with T-shirts (US$30 and up) direct from Tokyo line the white walls. The name alone draws curious customers into Strange Invisible Perfumes (far left; 1138 Abbot Kinney Boulevard, tel: 1 310 314 1505; siperfumes.com), which is named after a line in play Antony and Cleopatra. Custom scents can be created (from US$200).
Many of the niche designer labels, such as Issa and Laura Tabor, at Brick Lane (1132 Abbot Kinney Boulevard, tel: 1 310 392 2525; www.bricklaneuk.com) come direct from London. 'Please don't feed the models' and other T-shirts (US$35) let customers get their thoughts off their chests.