Shopping with Erin Barajas will make you fall in love with vintage denim.
“Denim is one of those products that’s just meant to have more than one life,” Barajas said excitedly as she thumbed through a rack of vintage jeans.
As the director of communications for Kingpins trade show, Barajas is immersed in the global denim industry. With her extensive knowledge of denim’s latest advancements, its MVPs and its origins, Barajas could characterize herself as a denim encyclopedia.
She was initially drawn to denim for the most un-sexy of reasons. After writing for a manufacturing trade publication early in her career, Barajas became entranced by the industry’s supply chain, and especially the advancements in denim that take place at the mill level.
“What I found was that so much inspiration, innovation and creativity takes place with the people who are developing new washes and new ways of making fabrics. They’re forming new blends and technology that affects the environment,” Barajas said. “A designer’s toolkit is essentially dictated by what the mills are doing.”
Here, Barajas takes a tour of her favorite denim shops, all located in her native playground of East Los Angeles.
3303 Division St. Los Angeles
Weepah Way owner Constance Baker has a penchant for prizing quality over quantity, Barajas explained, pointing out the racks of delicate frocks and blouses that sit alongside the store’s star offering: vintage rigid denim.
“I only buy vintage and secondhand,” said Barajas, noting that Weepah Way specializes in the high-rise Levi’s and Wranglers she wears almost daily.
Indeed, Weepah Way is intimate—about the size of your luckiest friend’s walk-in closet. The edited selection of women’s tops, trousers, dresses and accessories could sway any shopper wary of the overwhelming effect of vintage shopping.
“I used to walk my dog right by her store, and I always admired her window,” Barajas said. “I finally walked in and thought ‘What is this? It’s just like my closet.’”
745 N. Avenue 50 Los Angeles
From the street, the unbranded façade of the Mothfood showroom is unassuming. But upon taking that first step over the threshold, it’s like being thrust into a veritable museum of denim.
The appointment-only showroom is the brainchild of denim aficionado Tommy Dorr, who sells and rents his collection to stylists, design teams and costume designers. Dorr’s sizable assortment of denim ranges from jeans to coveralls, jackets, and a few garments that defy classification.
Barajas and Dorr fawned over an intricately embroidered smock that Dorr guessed was made in the 1920s. “Somebody hand-made this at home,” Barajas mused, declining to try on the garment—an obvious relic of a bygone era.
Barajas loves the stories that denim can tell—and the more scars, the better. Working her way through Dorr’s wares, she pointed out rips and patches that others might view as blemishes, exclaiming frequently, “This is so good.”
3318 Sunset Blvd. Los Angeles
Husband and wife team Fox and Jeff Garza opened their shop, Foxhole LA, shortly after they fell in love at a swap meet in 2011. Over the years, the two have amassed enough jeans, denim jackets, chambray shirts and other miscellaneous vintage to fill their denim den.
“She’s just this very knowledgeable person in the industry,” Barajas said of Fox, who has been traveling the world as a denim designer and consultant for more than a decade. “Then I found out that she had this store that carries Painfully Ordinary vintage, and she also does tailoring.”
Barajas said that Fox specializes in taking jeans—both old and new—and making them fit their wearer like a glove. “It’s the perfect place to come as a woman, wanting a pair of vintage jeans to fit you in a really flattering way.”