There may be no better time to escape the city for a sun-drenched jaunt to the desert than spring. Flowers are blooming, temperatures are moderate, and music and art beckon with two major festivals — the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival April 15 to 17 and the Stagecoach country music fest April 30 and May 1.
This is all on top of the year-round lure of golf, tennis, pools and spas.
And for the serious shopper? There's a small but mighty fashion scene to be found in Palm Springs and its southeastern neighbor Palm Desert that includes the same sartorial trappings available in the city (Gucci, Trina Turk, Sephora) but with the Midcentury Modern flare characteristic of the area.
Whether you're heading out for a music fest or simply to enjoy a quiet weekend respite, here's a guide to five of our favorite Palm Springs-area shops, both new and old, that are worth checking out.
This resale shop — a favorite of the Palm Springs social set — is just across the street from the Parker Hotel and is packed to the brim with contemporary and vintage clothing and accessories in a range of prices. On a recent visit, we unearthed a long, label-less 1960s metallic cocktail gown ($74.99), a 1980s Givenchy couture polka dot short-sleeve shift ($239.99) and a blue beaded Louis Feraud flapper dress that appeared fit for a 1920s screen siren ($1,000). Mixed in with the hearty selection of eveningwear is a rack of St. John pieces in every color of the rainbow as well as gently worn shoes from the likes of Jimmy Choo, Alaia and Alejandro Ingelmo. But Resale Therapy's real gems are in the back room, where everything is 75% off and your fifth item costs a mere penny. Be prepared to dig through some fairly putrid ensembles to find gems such as Pendelton wool skirts ($6.75) and Costume National button-down tux shirts ($9.25) that are yours for little more than the price of a McDonald's lunch.
4109 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. (760) 321-6556. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.
Across from an IHOP and next to a vacuum cleaner store lies a former Chevron station that, at first glance, seems abandoned. But a look beyond the failing facade reveals Secret Service, the 5-month-old brainchild of Crate denim founder Chad Hilton. Like the store's by-appointment sibling in downtown L.A., Secret Service Palm Springs features an abundance of button-downs, grooming products, denim and even furniture for Coachella-bound guys. Think Brixton straw fedoras with ribbon detailing ($50), vintage rugged wash Levi's ($215) and musky, whiskey-scented shaving soap by Portland General Store ($13) that is sure to garner attention from the festival-loving ladies. And though it's technically a men's shop, nestled among the cork-and-chalk walls and huge California state flags is gear that's appropriate for women too — including vintage skeleton key necklaces ($26) and oversized canvas and leather doctor satchels by founded-in-L.A. label Billykirk ($338) that come courtesy of Amish leathersmiths in Pennsylvania.
490 S. Indian Canyon Road, Palm Springs. 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. (760) 778-8880.
Route 66 West
"People always walk in here and say, 'This looks like my grandma's jewelry,'" says Matt Burkholz, whose Route 66 West accessories boutique is packed with enough blingy Bakelite and head-turning Lucite costume jewelry from the 1920s and beyond to fill a museum exhibit. "And I say, no, it doesn't — unless your grandma was a Parisian prostitute." Route 66 West's vast selection of colorful, vintage pieces doesn't attract ladies of the night but instead the likes of actress Diane Keaton, designer Trina Turk and "Mad Men" costume designer costumer Janie Bryant, who are customers. They come for Burkholz's stock of rare, Hawaiian-style tubular Bakelite bracelets from the 1930s ($375 each), 1950s Kenneth Jay Lane chunky coral and jade chokers ($495) and sweet, circa 1960s enamel floral pins ($25 to $65) as much as they come for his vast knowledge of vintage baubles. (The self-professed "King of Bakelite," who grew up working in his family's Miami Beach jewelry store, Burkholz has written a book on the 1930s plastic as well as one on vintage copper jewelry). There are few things in the tiny shop that can't be called "standouts." But not to be missed are huge, acrylic geometric gem necklaces from jewelry designer Judith Hendler, who is the stepmother of late fashion photog Herb Ritts and is collaborating on a new collection of ice cube-inspired wares with Burkholz that are available in his store.
465 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. (760) 322-6669. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Tuesday, closed Wednesday.
"Those women always know how to wear color," Kate Spade creative director Deborah Lloyd said at a recent luncheon celebrating the label's new color-filled branding strategy. She was talking about stylish desert dwellers. And her notion couldn't be more evident than in the New York-based company's latest retail location in Palm Desert's ritzy El Paseo shopping district. Color is everywhere in the jewel-box boutique — on the multi-hued striped floors, the Midcentury Modern orange and wood furniture and, most important, all over the merchandise. Expect a small but mighty selection of ready-to-wear garb including a yellow-and-white patterned Hillary dress with a sweetheart neckline ($245), coral and sky blue Sandra miniskirt ($225) and a bright yellow pineapple-encrusted cardigan ($295) that would all look at home poolside at the Parker. Accessories are fully stocked too, with the studded wicker Kayla bag ($225) and an oversized red fabric Date Night floral ring ($55) in the merchandise mix. Espadrilles ($99), vintage-inspired cat-eye shades ($128) and a selection of stationery and barware are also carried at the sunny, rainbow-hued emporium.
73425 El Paseo, Palm Desert. (760) 346-0403. 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday,
11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
For 15 years, Wil Stiles and wife Molly Bondhus owned clothing stores in Minneapolis. Fed up with shoveling snow, the couple headed west, opening a psychedelically infused boutique in downtown Palm Springs' bustling uptown design district in late 2009. Inside the space-agey shop, which is right next to Trina Turk's Palm Springs lifestyle emporium, expect to see a selection of sporty, hard-to-find gear for men and women from international labels including Montreal designer Samuel Dong, England-based United Kingdom of Luke and Jakartan statement jeweler Manik Kami. "I like things with nauseatingly optimistic prints," Stiles said, standing in front of a bright yellow geometric-printed men's button-down ($139) that fit the bill. In addition to vintage reproduction chrome cruiser bicycles ($350) and a wall of new designer shades from Dior, Valentino, YSL and Gucci, shoppers can score retro-tinged flight bags from Fred Perry for a mere $39 and Peter Grimm's desert-appropriate lavender woven fedoras for the same price.