Photos by Krista Simmons
As eagle-eyed readers may have noticed, we are currently running banner ads for The Gap and there is a little widget in the bottom left-hand side of the screen. This post is what you call advertorial, a mix of advertising and editorial, that hopefully will serve the dual purpose of being a “word from our sponsor” and equally be something of value for Dangerous Minds readers.
Los Angeles is the denim design capital of America. Even after most American clothing companies outsourced their manufacturing overseas, a robust denim infrastructure for receiving, sorting and finishing denim garments still existed in the “Fashion District” of Downtown Los Angeles.
Eventually these tasks, too, were outsourced, but the denim finishing infrastructure (wash facilities, garment assemblies, embroiderers, etc) remained behind. Beginning in the late 90s, small boutique jeans companies began to take advantage of what the district offered, producing small runs of high-quality “premium” jeans—you know, the kind that cost $300—and creating the luxury denim trend.
The Gap is currently re-branding itself in an interesting new way: They’ve recently opened a denim design studio in Downtown Los Angeles, not only to take advantage of the denim industry’s support structure as it exists here, but also so they can recruit from the ranks of the finest, most forward-thinking jeans designers in the world. The goal is to “democratize” high-end denim and make it affordable for everyone.
Los Angeles is a “strange attractor,” drawing in some of the most creative, intelligent and innovative people from all over the planet. It’s THE city where nearly everyone you meet has a connection to the creative arts. I’m a big civic booster of my adopted hometown. I love LA and absolutely consider myself a “Los Angeleano.”
I am especially fond of Downtown. It’s the part of the city where LA’s creative momentum can be most viscerally experienced. Forward-thinking street fashion, art galleries, restaurants and gourmet coffee. Iconic modern architecture like Frank Gehry’s Disney Concert Hall. The gigantic, megawatt Staples Center. The nightclubs and bars. The trendy, chic hotels. The film festivals. Underground comedy clubs. Downtown has it all within walking distance and there’s still a sense of slight menace and danger—like pre-Giuliani New York—giving DTLA some extra points to my mind. You really feel like something is happening all around when you’re in Downtown Los Angeles. I love that feeling, like I’m right in the thick of it. It makes perfect sense to me that The Gap has opened up a denim design studio here to soak up some of this world-class creativity as they seek to renew their brand.
There is a lot to appreciate about DTLA. These these are a few of my favorite things:
Usually the first place I take visiting out-of-towners is Little Tokyo. The architecture in the area, the things for sale in the shops and especially the people… all of it seems so much like a little piece of Tokyo was broken off and dropped into a spot on the eastside of LA. I’ve been to Japan and I think Downtown’s Little Tokyo district really deserves its name. The streets are slightly narrower, there is a fair amount of cobblestone and the it feels a bit more cramped than other parts of town. It really does feel like you’re in Tokyo. The details speak of the area’s authentic Toyko-style experience: Sweet shaved-ice desserts can be found everywhere, the best toy stores in town are in the vicinity and practically everyone smokes…
The vendors at the Little Toyko Square mall sell real Japanese stuff to Japanese people living in Los Angeles who want the same food and products they have at home. Even though the Kinokuniya bookstore—my main reason for going there in the past—is no longer in the mall, I still love it. A visit to the big grocery store there is an event in itself.
Inside the mall you will find an insanely advanced video arcade, a bowling alley, clothing boutiques, karaoke bars, noodle houses (like the delicious Hana-Ichimonme where lunch is around $6) and those stores that sell herbal remedies, foot massagers and questionable Japanese electronic “health” devices.
More of the Dangerous Minds guide to Downtown Los Angeles after the jump…