Yeah, yeah, yeah – I know the news out of Paris is all about Alexander Wang’s ‘mastering the code of Balenciaga’ (not so sure about that – but his own New York eponymous collection sure was a great warm-up). Anyway, I haven’t seen the garments up close and need a second look at the show. Today the tweets and blogs were ablaze about Raf Simons’ second Fall ready-to-wear show for Dior – which looked simply fantastic; and Lanvin (less so – but suspending judgment for the moment). Hey kiddoes I know you’ve already had your previews here and all over the webs, so you can wait a minute for me to weigh in.
Here’s the thing: I’m NOT (shock of shocks) in Paris right now. (I know – a year without Paris is like a year sans lumière, sans amour – trust me I’m feeling it.) I am in Los Angeles – in that Hollywood suburb/urban village we call Los Feliz; and as much as I complain about L.A. generally, Los Feliz by and large lives up to its name. There are other urban villages in L.A. (and yes, possums, there is a downtown L.A.) but Los Feliz is one of, if not the best of them. Within a radius of 10 to 20 blocks is everything the L.A. urban cosmopolite could possibly need – all the necessities, including health food stores, great restaurants, bars and cafés, book stores, cinemas (including the Vista – a movie palace with leg room! It’s like our own screening room), great shopping, including chic boutiques unique to the nabe, even galleries, legit(!) theatre and live entertainment. The Griffith Park tennis courts and the Greek Theatre are within walking distance; and only a mile away, the rest of Hollywood.
Although it sometimes feels as if I’m chained to my desk or piano (or maybe an IV, in recent months), I like to get out and walk. You’re always bound to find something new or provocative, or run into someone you know at Skylight Books on Vermont, or the Café Figaro just a few doors down. (Figaro and the Alcove on Hillhurst are almost like a college dining commons for those of us who live in this neighborhood.) And after my hackles are sufficiently raised by some political or literary frisson at Skylight, or my spirits revived by a café au lait at Figaro, I just (following my husband’s wise advice) keep walking. Rounding the corner from Figaro onto Melbourne the other day, I came to a stop in front of a charming window. Given this nabe and the rest of this city, I am usually impervious to charming windows, but something drew me in – an unusual hat, an interesting, very feminine blouse, a certain belle époque atmosphere (ahh – Paris me manque). I walked in to inspect what looked like a 1920s/30s vintage ruffled bed jacket and a beautiful veiled hat, and was immediately distracted by a red riding cap style, then by a necklace, then by a silk shirt hanging on the rack directly across, then a slashed/decorated kimono a few hangers down, then an array of glittery jewels in a vitrine deeper into the shop…. Well, needless to say, I was a gone-er. It was all I could do not to comb through every piece in the store.
I made the mistake of trying on one of the hats – perfection; and was already doing the usual mental inventory of skirts and jackets I might wear it with, when a charming woman gently interrupted my reverie with the price. Amazingly I was not turned to stone: the price was reasonable – no, a bargain – and would have been a bargain at twice the price. I was delighted to make the acquaintance of Melissa Simpson, the proprietor and resident designer of the boutique, BlaNk (also called the Blank Studio Showroom – 4647 Melbourne Ave., Los Angeles 90027). The first thing that strikes you about the shop is a uniqueness and originality about almost every item on display. The second is the sheer quality and impeccable look of the pieces. Simpson clearly has an eclectic eye and confidence in her taste. It is also an educated eye: there is great fashion sophistication in her choices. Some of the pieces are virtually museum-quality (and we briefly discussed the merits of one such piece – and the museum it might be destined for). She is also an artist and designer in her own right; and has re-fashioned many of the vintage garments – kimonos, jackets, shirts and blouses – with hand-painting, re-cutting and embroidery into new original pieces. Finally, there is a sense of deep style and fashion history enlivened by the vitality and momentum of street style.
It’s the kind of store that at one time might only have been found on the Sunset Strip or in Laurel Canyon (Simpson ran one incarnation of her boutique for a time in Malibu, which attracted a celebrity-laden clientele). Today, such emporia of eclecticism are far more numerous; and a number of high-end boutiques (e.g., Maxfield’s, Satine, Beige) intersperse their designer lines with select vintage pieces. But few offer the depth and quality available at BlaNk – and I defy them to match the prices.
Look – you’re here in L.A.; the weather is almost frighteningly mild. You can’t just sit around and read The New York Times all day. (Or can you?) There’s that matinee performance of the L.A. Phil, or maybe you were thinking of finally seeing Django Unchained – but what if you missed it? Grab a bite or a café au lait at Figaro and stroll around the corner to 4647 Melbourne Avenue. You were looking for a bit of enchantment, no? Now you can take it home and find a new way to wear it.