I walked in prepared not to like it; after all, I intensely dislike most malls. Santa Monica Place re-opened a few months ago and I hadn’t gone to take a peek yet. The construction that went on forever was annoying enough  and the fanfare to which it opened conspired to keep me away in anticipation of throngs of Los Angelenos descending upon it. But on Monday, in the midst of running errands, I decided to make a pit stop. The parking lot is still the same with more stylish stainless steel outer staircases but the oppressive, enclosed structure filled with mediocre stores and diabolical food has permanently gone. No trace remaining.

The new space is airy, partly open to the elements in keeping with the new wave of malls, especially in locations where the climate allows it. The three story structure is anchored by Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s and even Barney’s – the ground floor makes a visual impact with high-end boutiques and brands. For opening, Kitson, on two floors, and its pricey merchandise ranging from clothing to gadgets is the greeting card, followed by all the trendy labels du jour: 7 for all mankind, Tory Burch, you get the idea. A store by the name of All Saints Spitalfields and obviously heading from London serves a wide range of clothing for man and women in a palette of just charcoal, with some fatigue green and a few, pretty dresses in printed silk. The leather jackets, all black, are varied and beautiful and, considering the soft leather, not too terribly expensive at around $600.

Burberry, right next to Tiffany’s, has the best collection in town – were it not for the prices I would have bought the navy raincoats that come in all kinds of lengths with wellies to match. Easy to see why Christopher Bailey has been so feted of lately. Also on the ground floor I was happy to find Ted Baker, the quirky UK retailer that can be relied upon to deliver graceful clothes with a twist. The silk dresses and blouses are lovely with fun prints and slightly wide shoulders. Check the discount rack at the back of the store for some good bargains..

The second floor is more geared to a younger, middle of the road crowd – the Forever 21 people. I hopped and skipped to the much talked about food court which is still a work in progress. The Santa Monica Place Market, which looks like a vast covered space promising gourmet coffee, handmade pastries and all kinds of other goodies, should open some time next year. For now, there are a few good-looking restaurants, ranging from sushi to gourmet pizza, a churrascaria and a Sonoma wine bar. I suppose a mall could do much worse than offer a glass of wine at reasonable prices while overlooking the Pacific. And for the lazy ones, there is a concierge where gift cards can be purchased, skipping the entire Christmas shopping experience and heading for that glass of wine…



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