The one hundred-block Fashion District in Los Angeles is well known for its bargains and a shopper's ability to negotiate with vendors on prices. Unless you live close by, you'll want to take advantage of your trip to the vast District by spending a full day. Without guidance, you could waste hours searching with nothing to show for it because shops sprawl out in every direction. Stores are basically arranged in groups according to products. But you may find some items like accessories, in every nook and cranny. So how do you know where to find what? Read further for tips and recommendations to insure you make the most of your time in the Fashion District.
MAKE A LIST
Make a list in advance. Know what you're looking to buy. Once you have decided, you can use the extremely helpful Fashion District guide (http://www.fashiondistrict.org/map/ ) to determine how many areas of the District you will need to visit.
The map shows which streets sell which type of products.
If you have nothing special in mind and just want to browse, take a look in Santee Alley. First time visitors are very recognizable because they are so overwhelmed, they barely move through the Alley. They also have a secure grip on their purse and a dazed look on their faces. The Alley is crammed with people and it’s loud. A dizzying array of clothing and other goods hang everywhere creating a slightly carnival feel. From trendy clothing to accessories to perfume and more, you’ll find over 150 booths offering great bargains. Veteran Alley shoppers hustle through the booths, knowing what they want and where to find it. On your first visit, watch your step while shopping in the Alley because the dazzling mix of sights and sounds might cause you to trip on objects set close to the ground.
As the name indicates, Santee Alley is an actual alley and is closed off to street traffic. While its swap meet appearance draws huge crowds, the prices in the Alley don't differ much from shop prices but feel free to try for a discount by negotiating with the seller. Santee Alley is one of the most popular shopping areas in the Fashion District. The Alley is open 365 days a year from 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Vendors change frequently while some have occupied the same space for years. There’s no guarantee that an item you see while shopping will be available the next time you visit the Alley.
Map out your shopping day by deciding where to park. Since the District is so big, it's not realistic to think you could walk it completely. You may find you want to visit shops in two different areas. This will mean moving your car from one parking spot to another. Planning ahead will help you to decide how best to approach the parking situation and how to minimize what you'll spend on parking. Even if you park in one lot for the day, think about how far it will be from your shopping. If your bags get so heavy you need to drop them at your car to continue shopping, will it be close by?
Scattered throughout the District, you'll find parking lots where you pay by the hour or a flat day rate. Expect to pay $5 or more for the whole day. If you arrive in the District in the afternoon, parking rates are discounted.
You can also park on the street in the District, but this is only convenient if you plan to visit shops grouped together and won't spend more than an hour in that spot. Meters cost $3 an hour or $.25 for five minutes.
Taking the train to the Fashion District is a good option if you don't like dealing with LA traffic. A bus leaves the train station every few minutes headed for the Fashion District. If your list of purchases is long, consider bringing a roll-around bag as your items may become too heavy to carry.
Plan ahead. Wear comfortable shoes. Bring along a tote to carry your small purchases, a water bottle, sun screen if the day is warm, and snacks if you don't want to stop shopping to have lunch. If you'll be buying lunch, don't expect to find too many restaurants conveniently located. Fast food is plentiful at booths in the Santee Alley area, from street vendors, and at an occasional food court.
CASH OR CREDIT
Bring some cash with you. Although credit cards are accepted in most shops, you may find a rare one where they only take cash, or they have a spending minimum for shopping in their store regardless of your payment method.
Be aware there are certain shops that cater only to wholesale buyers. Those shops are generally grouped together on certain streets.
DOWNLOADS AND OTHER HELP
Download the Fashion District Guide (http://www.fashiondistrict.org/map/ ) This is a must. The guide is a complete map that shows which blocks/streets sell which types of goods. It also uses icons to indicate parking, restaurants, and restrooms.
You may also want to download the Driving Map. It includes driving directions from different areas of California to the Fashion District as well as bus and rail system information.
Still looking for more information about the Fashion District? A Podcast shopping tour is available for free download and includes the District as well as other downtown shopping areas. In addition, guided group tours streamlined to suit your shopping needs are available.
After several visits to the District it becomes apparent that it’s a safe place to shop, although it may look questionable at first glance. Safe Team officers police the District on bike and are easily recognizable by their yellow shirts. Any Safe Team officer will be happy to answer any questions or help with any problems you might encounter. They will even supply you with a free map guide!