Antiquing in Los Angeles: The Vintage Fashion Expo, the Long Beach Antique Market, and Art Deco Architecture in Downtown LA

A few weeks ago I spent a weekend in Los Angeles on a buying trip.  I timed my trip to coincide with the Vintage Fashion Expo which is held three times a year in Los Angeles and twice a year in San Francisco (where I am a seller).  The weekend of the Vintage Expo coincided with the monthly Long Beach Antique Market so I spent Sunday shopping there.

Vintage Fashion Expo

Last year the Vintage Expo moved from its long-time home in Santa Monica to the Convention Center in downtown Los Angeles  although, according to its organizers, it will be moving to another location for its October 2014 show.   I urge you to stay tuned to their website for information on where they will be moving and attend the show because it’s a great show and it would be a shame if this show dies, as many shows have over the past few years.

The show has great dealers with merchandise at all price points.  There are high-end dealers with amazing designer fashion and jewelry, modernist jewelry by some of the best mid-century studio jewelers, and lux vintage fashion.  However there were also many dealers with affordable, wearable vintage clothing, many of whom cater to the rockabilly crowd.  There are even bargains to be had from the high-end dealers:  I bought a bracelet by Theodor Fahrner, one of the great German jewelry manufacturers of the early 20th century, from a high-end dealer who was willing to sell it at a reasonable price because her specialty is high-end designer clothing and jewelry, not somewhat esoteric jewelry like Fahrner.

Architecture in downtown Los Angeles:

The convention center is right on the edge of a treasure trove of Art Deco, and Deco-era architecture in downtown Los Angeles, all in easy walking distance of each other (despite LA’s reputation as needing a car to get around).   Close to the  convention center is the Figueroa Hotel, a Moorish/Spanish Colonial Revival fantasy built in 1925 that retains its original ornate tile decoration, scrolling ironwork, stained glass lay lights, stenciled ceilings, and fabulous light fixtures.  According to a friend who lives in Los Angeles the atmospheric bar is a fabulous place to lounge and have a drink.  The Fiqueroa Hotel is located on Figueroa Street between 9th Street and W. Olympic Blvd.

Another highlight was a visit to the Oviatt Building, now home to the Cicada Club and Restaurant.   Located at 617 S. Olive Street (between 6th and 7th Street) the storefront and interior were originally a high-end men’s store whose owner commissioned Lalique to produce lamps, panels, window, display cases, and ceiling:

The Oviatt Building is reported to be the largest commercial project ever undertaken by Lalique.  In addition to the extraordinary Lalique glass, there is carved Art Deco woodwork, a gold-leaf ceiling, and ironwork.  The restaurant and club are open to the public during regular business hours.  There is also a penthouse which is supposed to be even more fabulous but which is not open to the general public, only for special events.

Other nearby buildings worth a visit are the Central Library of the Los Angeles Public Library system with its magnificent rotunda,  reading rooms, and pyramidal cap on its tower and the Fine Arts Building with its amazing lobby:

Long Beach Antique Market:

Held on the third Sunday of every month, Long Beach is one of the great flea markets in the LA area along with the Rose Bowl (held the second Sunday of each month).   The doors open for early admission at 5:30 am (admission $12), but we opted to show up for general admission opening at 6:30 am ($6).  Judging by the numbers of dealers who were still setting up long after our arrival, I doubt there is much value in showing up early unless you are a regular and know a particular dealer that you want to have first crack at while they are unloading.  In fact, I needed to do a second pass on the first couple of rows that I viewed as so many dealers didn’t have their merchandise out when I first walked by.  I found some great jewelry and, much to my surprise, several pieces were european art nouveau and Edwardian, and I even found two Georgian pieces.  This is not what I expected to find in LA, but I’m happy to find Georgian jewelry wherever I can!  Of course there’s also lots of what you’d expect:  costume jewelry, native American jewelry, and Mexican jewelry plus furniture, clothing and all sorts of tzotchkes.  The market is about a 40 minute drive from Los Angeles and at 6:00 am there was very little traffic.

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