Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Santee Alley: Designer Knockoff Shopping Spree
Last Saturday, Chaya and I made the pilgrammage to downtown LA's discount shopping mecca; Santee Alley--literally an alleyway crammed with shops pandering super-cheap knockoff designer handbags, Melrose Ave-esque apparel and cute & surprisingly comfy $20 shoes. Personally, I find the scene too hectic to hit up more than twice a year but late fall is a good time to go since they have great bargain boots (my tan faux ultra-suede knee high moccasins purchase ($25) from last year are still getting compliments, ditto my $40 Melie Bianco velvet heart hobo knockoff) and you also need to allow about a month's lag time between the current season's fashions hitting mainstream stores and the cheaper versions showing up at Santee Alley.
Located in the Fashion District with hectic parking and even more hectic crowded streets, the slightly seedy Santee Alley isn't for the casual shopper--but the bargains are worth braving the questionably legal shopping experience and the even more questionable parking options. There are plenty of area lots available for a flat rate of $6-8; all are sketchy looking but, for what it's worth, so far, each time I've returned from my shopping excursions to find my car fully intact and not stolen, which is all you can really ask for.
It definitely helps to go with an agenda so you don't get sidetracked along the alleyway's more random bargains ($1 CD's & DVD's, pet turtles, luggage sets). Today, mine was shoes and Chaya's was jeans and boots.
On our first stop, Chaya found some knee-high chocolate brown suede mocassins ($30) while I picked up a pair of wedges for $20 and authentic Converse sneakers for $25, half the regular retail price.
We then went next door and a vendor immediately came over and started mumbling "True Religions? Sevens? $55". We had entered a designer denim haven! The key is not to question if the jeans are fakes (or stolen) but just bask in the glow of finding greatly discounted designer denims. They didn't have any in my size (I guess the box of 27"'s didn't fall of the truck that morning) but Chaya scored a pair of rockin' Rock & Republics for $55. The only downside is that they don't have dressing rooms, but if the store next door has a changing room so you can try them on and come back for an exchange if it's not the right size. For those who couldn't care less about Citizens of Humanity vs. Antiks, they also have a plethora of no-name booty-enhancing jeans for only $10.
Buoyed by our morning bargains, we bypassed some of the outdoor clothing stalls and went into the alley's more expensive "real stores" (as in, they have dressing rooms, don't bargain and take credit card); more expensive still means $20 jersey dresses, $12 yoga pants, $5 red pleather belts and $11 tops.
After hour 5 of our shopping day, we entered a shoe store so we could pretend to try on shoes for an excuse to sit and rest. After "trying on" a pair of red suede flats for 45 mins, we were asked if we were going to buy them "otherwise no-one else wil lwant to try on a pair of shoes you've worn for such a long time". I figured $20 was a pretty good deal for a pair of whimsical new red shoes and an nearly an hour of rest-time in their store.
Although handbags are Santee Alley's main draw, this time we left empty handbag handed. However, we did have fun bargaining down a Chloe replica for $30 and sifting through the vendor's "catalog" of inventory: a binder with pages of photos of celebs carrying prized designer bags ripped out of In Touch and Star Magazine.
I got a full days exercise (walking from store to store for 6hrs) and shopping bags full of non-cheaplooking purchases (3 pairs of shoes, a top and belt) for less than $80.
Some tips before you go:
Spanish-speaking skills helps during the bargaining process.
Ladies: Wear flip flops, a tank/tube top and a skirt so you can try on stuff over your clothes since dressing rooms are rare.
The second jean store on the right handside is the one that carries the designer denims; the brand jeans may be hidden in boxes behind the cheaper no-name brands so make sure to ask for them.
Pleather replica bags shouldn't cost much more than $30, and designer fakes with real leather no more than $70.
If you need a mid-shopping snack, the fruit cart by the scary-sounding 'Alley Hotdogs' actually has healthy and hygenic-looking fresh fruit cups $2 and granola parfaits for only $2.50
Alleyway between Olympic and 11th, Downtown L.A.