Los Angeles

Free City

Stylish VIP sweats with a conscience

In a perfect world, I am working every day in a sun-filled Florida room in the middle of … Paris. In England they call such rooms conservatories, but make that a fasanerie because it is a fantasy, an aviary designed by Cedric Price or Buckminister Fuller, and there are peacocks and blue African superb starlings nearby. Because there is no wind, and because there is always an angle from which I can get direct sun to my face (and through my eyelids for mood-enhancing vitamin D), I will always have a light sweat giving me a glow. (Sheen, April, it’s called sheen.)

What’s the perfect clothing, thus, for this fantasy? A fashionable sweatshirt, of course: cropped, oversized, raglan.

Now how to go about making that one item good? Something handmade, of great material, no sweatshop labor weaved into its soul? The answer: Free City.

It’s a cool shop in LA run by Nina Garduno. It has grown to three spaces—in Hollywood, Venice (California), and Tokyo—plus a web shop. But there’s a price for freeing your shopping soul of moral turpitude. Her sweatwear is by no means cheap, but as they say, you get what you pay for, and Ms. Garduno fairly employs some twenty artists. She also has a selection of other small batch things she’s picked up on and wants to support—edibles from places like LA’s BreadBar, homemade almond milk, and KindKreme non-dairy ice cream—to make sure that no one leaves empty-handed. Garduno’s doing her part to save the planet in lessening the Hollywood locals’ carbon footprint: her Supershop Supermät is slowly becoming something akin to a general store for good spirits.

It leads me to wonder, however, when it was that wearing sweatshirts became so fashionable. The abbreviation for the pants, after all, is a very unglamorous “sweats.” There was a long gap between Flashdance and the current continuing vogue of sweatwear. When Jennifer Beal did it in 1983, we were thrilled that a dancer was not just a dancer but a lady that welded at a steel mill too. She’s a working class hero that no one has replaced yet, right? Thinking back, there may have been a few collegiate sweat-wearers out there already, and then there’s Rocky, of course, who wore his sweatpants high waist in 1976, and even some early hip-hoppers, but no one did it as sexy as Jennifer Beal did.

In the meanwhile, I am happily typing this on a free park bench close to my house to take in the quickly fading end-of-September sun, before I am wearing sweats again for another reason altogether: to hide Cookie Monster’s winter flesh! Here Karl Lagerfeld comes to mind: “Sweatpants are a sign of defeat.” Dearest Karl, it’s not everyday that we can wear your punky pretty Chanel suits. And Warren Beatty was wearing his sweats in heaven when he was mistakenly taken there. Heaven Can Wait—for now, I’m just wearing mine through the Berlin winter.

Free City, meet your next best customer. Sibylle loves you, and I am imagining that if she loves you, I will too.


Hollywood Neighborhood Shop:

hollywood@freecitysupershop.com  |  +1(323) 461-2226

1139 N. Highland Ave., Los Angeles, CA. 90038

Open every day, 11:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m.!


Venice Neighborhood Shop:

venice@freecitysupershop.com  |  +1(424) 238-5568

533 California Ave. (at Abbot Kinney Blvd.), Venice, CA. 90291

Open every day, 11:00 a.m.-6:30 p.m.!


FREECITY tokyo shop:

+81 3-5784-2381

1 Chome-5-21 Aobadai, Meguro, Tokyo, Japan