The idea of High Street shopping may have originated in London, but it’s been mastered at South Coast Plaza. The once-novel concept of snagging clothes that don’t break the bank has gone from a fringe fashion activity to a retail revolution. Instead of waiting months to get looks from runway — and emptying your vacation fund in the process — a slew of brands made options inspired by the latest trends and churned them out to shoppers at a breakneck pace. And while there are issues with that business model, it’s undeniable that fast fashion has changed the way we shop and look at clothes. South Coast Plaza was one of the first places to literally mix high and low, embracing retailers such as Zara, H&M, and more as they started their stateside expansion.
It started with a bang. In 2007, H&M opened two locations at the shopping center. A huge spot in the Macy’s Home wing house men’s options, kids clothes, and plenty of options for women. In the main center, the Swedish megabrand had a trendier spot that boasted long lines for designer collabs — it was often the only location in Orange County to offer H&M’s mashups with Jimmy Choo, Lanvin, Comme des Garçons, Maison Martin Margiela, and more. Now, that spot’s gone, but it’s been replaced by two sister shops. COS and & Other stories sit side by side, offering up sleek, minimal Swedish design and a more curated lifestyle brand that’s all about laid-back luxe at a price you can afford. Think of COS as a sophisticated, minimal take on dressing and & Other stories as a mix of hygge and wabi sabi. South Coast Plaza got & Other Stories before L.A.; a sister location opened in Beverly Hills just two months later.
But Sweden isn’t the only import. In 2014, Japanese brand Uniqlo opened its very first Southern California location at South Coast Plaza. Taiko drummers christened the shop, which offers up a selection of Lifewear — things for everyday living. The shop offers the Japanese retailer’s line of affordable cashmere, raw denim, and collabs with hometown entertainment giant Disney.
There are a slew of other fast fashion stalwarts, too. Zara opened its first Orange County location at the shopping center and later expanded to create an even bigger store that includes men’s and children’s clothing and accessories.