Some would consider Los Angeles the hub of vintage clothing in America. The shops dot every neighborhood, and every second Sunday of the month people fly in from all over the world to go to the Rose Bowl Flea Market, hoping to discover well-priced gems.
There are those who love the hunt, and others, like myself, who prefer a selection curated by someone with great taste, displayed in a chic and shoppable environment. There’s an art to finding the perfect pair of Levi’s—so why not leave it up to the experts?
This is where RLT, a boutique in West Hollywood, right across the street from the bustling Erewhon on Beverly Boulevard, comes in. Inspired by watching her dad bid for art online as a teenager, the shop’s founder, Rachel Tabb, grew up scouring online auctions in search of the status bags that her more upwardly mobile peers had. Once, she tells me, “I took my money from working at American Apparel and babysitting and found a busted-up Balenciaga City Bag on eBay.” Ultimately, she succeeded. “It’s olive green, and it’s still at my parents’ house,” Tabb says.
The scrolling and shopping never stopped. After buying and selling vintage online for three years, Tabb, 27, opened her brick-and-mortar store last fall. RLT stands for her initials.
The space is clean and filled with light, and features a mix of simple, well-made pieces. When I was there, a Gucci Western button-down and a Banana Republic leather jacket sat next to books on Ed Ruscha and Richard Serra. Fourteen-karat-gold charms, Casa Bosques chocolate, and Japanese-sterling-silver salt-and-pepper shakers rounded out the eclectic assortment. “I’m trying to curate things that you can have forever. Classic and beautiful. That was my whole idea,” she says. It’s tough to leave empty-handed.
Tabb, who was born and raised in Los Angeles, cut her teeth in New York, where she modeled as well as sourced fabrics and designed for Brandy Melville. For her, it was always about giving a new product a vintage-inspired spin: “I took a thrift-store cashmere cardigan, cut it in half, brought it to [the team at Brandy Melville], and said, ‘Make this.’” The cropped cardigan was a hit—“It has been made every year in every color,” she says.
Tabb has since launched her first private-label products, which offer her take on the perfect basics. First up is the mythic white T-shirt. “I wanted to do a white ribbed baby tee, locally made in L.A., that was soft, cute, and just went with everything,” she says. It seems simple, but everyone knows it isn’t, and Tabb’s years of research make her uniquely suited for the task. “It’s an amalgamation of all my favorite shirts I’ve ever worked on and all my favorite vintage shirts I’ve ever sourced,” she says.
The combination of vintage clothing, objects, accessories, and now her own T-shirts works because Tabb’s goal has always been clear and concise: “I want people to come in and just enjoy themselves.”
Chris Black is the founder of Done to Death Projects and a co-host of the podcast How Long Gone. He lives in Los Angeles and New York