The Discreet Charms of L.A.’s Discount Wonderland
Others may swoon for the boutiques of Beverly Hills, but for my father and me, the faux Rolexes, knockoff Chanels and wholesale cologne of Santee Alley are the pinnacle of panache.
Photos by Zack Herrera
Growing up, I did not have a mother around to teach me about fashion. She left me for my dad to raise when I was a baby. What I learned about how to sport a pair of white-and-hot-pink L.A. Gear high tops in grade school, or how to haggle for a bargain on my first pair of heels (light-pink Mary Jane-style mules), came from regular trips with my dad to the Fashion District in downtown Los Angeles.
The district is a stretch of about a hundred city blocks of wholesale and retail stores. Today, trendy tops hang from the stores - midriffs, flowery boho prints, skin-tight clubbing dresses and shirts with “I’m not a shopaholic. I’m helping the economy” printed on them. The clothes, for the most part, sell for twenty dollars or less and resemble many of the brand-name labels women pay twice the price for at local malls. Sweaty men stand on small stools above the crowd yelling, “Ladies, come here! I got ten-dollar bags,” while a petite woman holds up an ad: five pairs of co…
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