American Rag on La Brea is the epitome of a too-cool-for-school, one-stop-shop destination. The merchandise seems to be so cutting edge that it is hard to tell if the buyers have their fingers firmly on the pulse of Los Angeles, or if they are creating the pulse themselves. An entire rainy afternoon can be spent blissfully getting lost amongst the racks of sequined vintage, designer denim, and delightfully obscure high-end retail—we know from experience, as we stayed dry in this shopper’s haven when the rain came a-knocking this past week. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!
The scope and breadth of the store’s merchandise is simultaneously stimulating and intimidating. Upon entry you are greeted with blasts of color and funky art, displayed against warm wood, all situated within a cool urban loft expose. The u-shaped shoe display is the central focus of the main store, with the women and men’s retail flanking the display, and their vintage collection bringing up the rear. If that was not enough to make one’s heart skip-a-beat, to the right is their “World Famous Denim Bar,” although no Irish coffee was found, the denim selection was a sight to behold in and of itself.
Mark Werts, the owner and founder of American Rag, claims the buyers are what separate his stores from the masses, and the denim bar clearly showcases their talent. Ranging from classic 501 Levi’s to J-Brand’s newest invention, “jeggings” (they look a lot better than they sound), your desire for all things denim can be fulfilled here, and then some. We were thrilled to see that our favorite skinny jeans from EVER made an appearance amongst other up and coming contemporary brands such as CORPUS, Kill City, and PRPS, all perfectly mixed in with the big hitters, such as Helmut Lang, Diesel, and Citizens of Humanity.
The price tag on American Rag’s selection of vintage ranges dramatically from thirty-dollar funk-a-dellic flannels to two hundred dollar army coats, steeped in history. Although you wont find those vintage Chanel ballet flats you’ve been searching for, as there is little label vintage, you will find reasonably priced thermals, sweatshirts, t-shirts, and some awesome neon-plaid bell-bottoms, if those happen to light your fire. If the neon-plaid bell-bottoms intimidate you, and perhaps rightfully so, American Rag’s retail is paces away and offers you classic options, updated to today’s urban cool-vibe that simply exudes from the store. The men’s selection is a must, as it proves there should be so much more to a man’s wardrobe than just sneakers and jeans.
The menswear buyer, James Hammonds, sums up the success of store with, “You come in to accentuate your own look, not buy into ours.” It seems like American Rag simply wants to makes the masses look cool, the coolest part being, they don’t want to dictate your wardrobe, but just re-vamp your already existing look.
We surprisingly worked up a sweat scouring the racks, but didn’t even need to open our umbrella to find some lemonade. Café Midi is tucked away in the back of American Rag’s home décor store, Maison-Midi, which is easily accessible from the main retail section. We happily obliged when we saw banana bread on the menu— as we all know, it is our quintessential comfort food that tastes so much better when the weather is damp and dreary. Alas, they keep their recipe under lock and key.