Los Angeles - The city of angels and silver screen dreams. A sun-soaked dreamland aspiring stars and emerging egos have flocked to since the early 1900s hoping to be the next big thing. It’s home to movie stars, musicians, celebrities, movers, shakers, and notables of every industry - a west coast hub of glamour, culture, and influence.
And yet, on a recent trip out west, we experienced none of the above. Instead, Los Angeles felt like a relic of its once shimmering past. Coated in a thick layer of dust and grime and left behind as the world moved on. Maybe our expectations were too high. Perhaps, like the rest of the world, we’d bought into the dream presented on TV and social media of beautiful people in beautiful weather. Or maybe we were out-of-towners restricted from accessing the glorious heights we’d heard so much about.
Whatever the reason, we left Los Angeles with a new perspective. Tucked away in NW Montana, you can begin to feel out of the loop. You get the sense that things are going on you need to be a part of. The centers of the cultural universe drive headlines while snow, hay, and firewood stand piled outside your window. The trends come and go, and nothing here seems to change.
What we discovered, however, was that very little was going on at all. We walked legendary boulevards of cultural influence and found them lined with shuttered doors and for-lease signs. Once buzzing shops are now shells of themselves. Tinsel town has lost its luster.
Montana, on the other hand, shines brighter than ever. Rather than decaying like so many metropolises across the country, Montana is booming. The endless opportunity represented by open spaces, preserved wilderness, and a fierce spirit of independence makes this place special. Montana may not be a pop-culture hub, but it is full of culture nonetheless.
That culture of independence and adventure is something we saw mimicked all over Los Angeles. The residents of the city of angels recognize their city is in distress and are looking elsewhere for inspiration. So, while you might think you’re missing out, everyone else is eager for what you have.
What Stars Remain?
While the sunshine state has certainly seen brighter days, our trip there was not entirely disappointing. Los Angeles is still full of incredibly talented, creative, and inspiring people. As a hub of the entertainment industry, it's overflowing with excess cash and people with failed dreams desperate to work their way up. And as a land crawling with celebrities (both real and fake), it's also home to every major fashion brand on the planet. That’s what we went to see, and while most were disappointments, there were some remaining stars.
As you pull up to the front of Bodega, you’ll almost certainly think you’re in the wrong place. Hidden among a row of vendors loading bananas, lettuce, and other produce into vans on their way to restaurants across LA is the best shopping experience in the city. Following in the footsteps of the original flagship store in Boston, Bodega LA is a playful, creative, experiential streetwear shop stocked with the best brands and sneakers in the market.
Hidden down a mirrored hallway in the back of a trendy coffee shop serving up $11.00 oat milk lattes are racks and racks of the trendiest styles. In a space that appears as part art gallery and part boutique, Departamento felt like a small break from reality - an alternative world where adventurous styles coexist with classic garments to create the closet of our dreams. The coffee wasn’t bad either, though you don’t need to travel all the way to LA for a great cup of joe.
Los Angeles Apparel
LA is not only a place to buy apparel but also where most garment manufacturing occurs in the United States. Thanks to an enormous labor pool of mainly migrant workers and access to ports and distribution, the factories in Los Angeles produce millions of pieces each year. One such workshop is Los Angeles Apparel, which we had to opportunity to tour during our visit. Known for producing quality garments at a fair price while still supporting workers with a living wage, Los Angeles Apparel is the kind of domestic manufacturing we’d love to see more of.