Column: Thrifting and sifting — An insight into Melrose Trading Post


Photo credit: Isabel Kuh '19

Old photographs for sale inside one of the boxes at the Melrose Trading Post. These photos are a variety of one-of-a-kind film photographs collected over a 30-year span.

At the corner of Melrose and Fairfax lies a hub of Los Angeles teenage obsession: the Melrose Trading Post. Each Sunday, Fairfax High houses a flea market in its main parking lot that boasts a diverse array of vendors and attendees. Though the majority of these attendees are self-proclaimed art connoisseurs looking for a good bargain on a pair of Wrangler joggers or a mid-century sofa, a large portion of the trading post demographic belongs to young adults between the ages of 13 and 22.    

Among the assorted merchandise, ranging from dusty tchotchkes to wall-sized prints of Kate Moss, the adolescent population is particularly drawn to certain vendors, like the “Levi jeans station.”

Under a cobalt blue tarp at the north-most corner of the market is one of the most comprehensive Levi Strauss & Co. collections known to man, woman and variations thereupon. This booth offers jackets, jeans, shorts and overalls galore and is frequently swarmed with teens from all around the LA area. In fact, it is almost impossible to visit this vendor without having an (often awkward) run-in with some sort of acquaintance. To add to this awkward factor, people must search for their perfect pant fit without a dressing room. And, most likely, you will be interrupted while scouring ravenously through a Princess and the Pea style stack of jeans by impatient shoppers. Regardless, those looking for a timeless and classic denim addition to their wardrobe will undoubtedly find satisfaction in this crowded sector of the trading post.

While the Levi tent is certainly a hotspot, the market boasts a multitude of other booths and pop-up shops that satisfy just about any style. From your classic vinyl record stands to hand-me-down furniture and collectible pins and patches, the Melrose Trading Post seems to cover all bases and interests.

One of our favorite booths has bathtub-sized containers filled with used postcards (occasionally inscribed with love letters), old photographs, polaroids and magazine clippings, along with vintage band posters. Purchasing artifacts from a stranger’s past may seem odd or even creepy, but there is something so intriguing and fun about searching through these memories and small moments of time. The booth is run by a generous, kind-hearted man who is always down for a good bargain; at times offering a number of posters for less than $20. This stand definitely caters to the wannabe vintage-chic aesthetic by providing original and expressive wall decor.

Beyond the more eclectic, inexpensive booths, there is definitely a fair share of trendy and “try hard” (practically inauthentic) clothing stands that tend to pull in the more bougie customers. While many of these shops present a vintage facade, the majority of the available merchandise runs along a pricier range and ultimately promotes the typical LA trends, a.k.a clout goggles and two-piece plaid clothing sets.

Besides the array of mini-shops, the trading post has a small haven of food trucks centered around a stage in which up-and-coming artists perform Bluegrass tunes. This area, a small grassy lawn scattered with homey-blankets, is the perfect rest-stop after a day of shopping in the heat because the flea market always seems to feel like a sauna, no matter the season. Here, you can find families sipping on unique flavored lemonade or a group of teens posing with their tacos.

Although the market presents a variety of exciting merchandise and experiences, the large draw to this curated selection of one-of-a-kind treasures seems to be social media bragging rights. A visit to the Melrose Trading Post is merely incomplete without a photograph posted on Instagram, Snapchat or otherwise. Alas, vanity comes into play; a mirror selfie in one of the market’s many shabby-chic mirrors is the most common social media documentation.

Nevertheless, despite intention, style or budget, there is something for everyone at the Melrose Trading Post.