The coolest new shopping district in Los Angeles isn’t on Abbot Kinney, in Downtown LA or Silver Lake. It’s the new row of boutiques and eateries 10 minutes from LAX at Playa Vista’s new Runway: Free Market. That’s right. Playa Vista.
Once a home for divorced moms and Electronic Arts project managers, Playa Vista in recent years has seen an uptick in interestingness (and real estate values) as Google, Hulu, YouTube, IMAX and Jessica Alba’s The Honest Company brought in smarts and taste to these former wetlands where Howard Hughes built The Spruce Goose. Some still liken Playa’s vibe to Truman Show-by-the-sea but go on a Saturday, when the Farmer’s Market is bustling and Blue Bottle Coffee is pouring Opascope Espressos, and you might think you’ve stumbled upon a strangely sparkly patch of boho Venice.
It’s The Runway: Free Market that’s currently bringing the most heat to Playa. Launched last month, it’s a mix of shops and food places that’s bound to hit the spot for hipsters of a certain income bracket in search of tightly curated lifestyle goods and organic flavors.
Make no mistake. Like Playa Vista itself, Free Market is a manufactured concept, and one that’s built to lure dollars from well-off consumers. But what the heck? It looks great and is snazzier than anything the neighborhood has supported before, so I’ll take it. Built in partnership with Nguyen Lawrence Architects, Klein Agency, and DesignBitches, Free Market has locations in Denver and there’s another incarnation coming to the Arts District Downtown L.A. But for now, I’ll kid myself into believing it’s an only-in-Playa sensation.
Here’s what’s worth seeing:
By day the counter cases under neon at Joliet Café & Bar are stacked with Bub & Grandma’s bread and pastry from Farmshop in Brentwood. But it’s the hidden bar behind a pocket door a few steps further inside that might just be the West Side’s sexiest summer 2021 cocktail lounge.
Please Do Not Enter is my favorite new collection of chic and whimsical home decor objects and gifts, all handpicked by Nicolas Libert and Emmanuel Renoird. Inventory shifts frequently but you might find a classic Studio Tsé & Tsé test-tube vase or a surrealist animal bench by L.A.’s groovy Haas Brothers. Paris sophistication for the after-Gjelina crowd.
Alchemy Works sells Loomis, Flamingo Estate, Apolis and other Millennial-approved housewares and accessories in a bright and airy spot heavy on candles, jewelry and $200 throws.
County Line Florals is the first-ever “florista” bar from the company that made flower deliveries cool again (it helps that CLF occasionally sells its one-of-a-kind bouquets, plants, and housewares out of a transformed 1965 VW Transporter named Betty).
Natural Rough has an exotic feel with its handcrafted tops and dresses, all with an alluring global goddess look that says, “Hey, I’ll catch you when I get back from the Maldives.”
Period Correct is easy to find. It’s the shop with the race car sitting on the gallery floor. The modern design store is a motorsports concept shop that uses European car culture as an excuse for selling, well, very expensive jackets, hoodies and t-shirts.
As a magazine lover and guy who (full disclosure) sometimes writes for C Magazine, Studio C is my kind a store. The shop showcases items selected by that publication’s editors to represent the very best in Californian design and creativity, and brings together “the most talented artisans and forward-thinking brands plying their trades in The Golden State.” I can subscribe to that.
Teressa Foglia makes one-off hats that stir envy from Malibu to Brooklyn. Each piece is handmade with unicorn fur and mermaid glitter, or at least the feeling of such, and you’ll definitely want to stop in before the Coachella Music Festival resumes later this year.
Runway Playa Vista is located at 12775 W Millennium, Playa Vista, CA 90094.