“Venice represents this bigger message of ‘gritty California’ to the world that no other place along the coast does,” said Gavin Dogan, the co-founder of Venice menswear shop General Admission. The retail space sits two blocks off the beach, on the corner of Brooks and Pacific. One of the building’s former tenants was psychologist and LSD advocate Timothy Leary, and the Venice skatepark is a short walk away, but the neighborhood is changing rapidly. Snapchat co-founder Evan Spiegel bought a house across the street from General Admission and built a tech campus to capitalize on the local creative energy. “He came here for that specific reason, but he’s fucking it up,” Dogan said. “Snapchat bought, like, twenty commercial buildings along the boardwalk, kicked out all these cool tenants, and they’ve got security guards following their fucking employees up and down the beach.”
Dogan himself is a transplant to Venice. Originally from South Africa, he moved to Los Angeles 18 years ago for college and ended up working for his brother’s company, Hybrid Apparel. A couple years ago, after visiting Japan, Dogan came up with the concept for General Admission. “I saw how there were these really dope neighborhood-type stores, not on main streets,” he said. “I was like, ‘Oh shit, that would be cool, to open up a menswear shop like that in Venice,’ because there are no good menswear shops on the Westside.’” Dogan’s goal was to open a shop that was integrated with the community.
“There are so many stores that are coming to Venice, and they’re claiming they’re from Venice and using the Venice name and idea, but they don’t really support Venice.” In contrast, Dogan teamed up with another South African ex-pat, former pro surfer Damien Fahrenfort, to create a store that respected the neighborhood’s culture, building a gathering place for both the old Dogtown skaters and the new young professionals. “It’s about bridging the two generations together in a very authentic and cool way,” he said.
“Venice represents this bigger message of ‘gritty California’ to the world that no other place along the coast does.”
General Admission throws regular community events, where locals — old and new — are welcome. The store has hosted large outdoor events, including parties for brands like Outerknown and live-streamed surfing competitions from South Africa. The popular shopping street a few blocks away, Abbot Kinney, throws a regular street festival, but the General Admission crew organizes the Brooks Festival, a street fair that features local vendors who aren’t on Abbot Kinney anymore. For Dogan, the location of General Admission was key in building a store for the community. “We chose this location because we didn’t want to be on Abbot Kinney,” he said. “We were worried that eventually Abbot Kinney would become like what happened to Melrose. It was hot, and then all the big corporations went there and fucked it up.”
The General Admission store is open and bright, with floor-to-ceiling windows lining two walls. Dogan takes pride in a carefully curated selection of brands that represent his mixed clientele: surfer, skater, contemporary. The shop carries surf-related brands like Banks and Outerknown,; streetwear brands like Born x Raised, Fuct, Braindead, Dogtown and Those Folks; and notable menswear brands like Norse Projects, Levi’s Made and Crafted, Our Legacy and Wings + Horns. General Admission bridges the gap between surf/skate lifestyle and high fashion in a natural way, integrating brands with cult-like followings. “If anything, our focus is to continue to bring in these really limited brands.”
“We were worried that eventually Abbot Kinney would become like what happened to Melrose. It was hot, and then all the big corporations went there and fucked it up.”
Along with the strong range of apparel, General Admission offers eyewear from California brands like Garrett Leight and Salt, and sneakers by brands ranging from Vans to FEIT. On the wall are surfboards — “They aren’t hipster boards. We’re surfers, so we’re not going to sell you a shit board.” And in a case, there are numerous pocket knives — “In South Africa, dudes don’t really carry knives. I think it’s an American culture thing: guys loves their knives.” General Admission has a house brand as well, made up of staples like t-shirts, shorts and light jackets.
Of late, the shop is bolstering its neighborhood presence with a coffee shop in a retrofitted 1969 Airstream across the street. “It’s basically going to serve everything a fucking surfer wants before he goes for a surf or when he comes out of the water, which is coffee, açaí bowls, pastries, smoothies,” Fahrenfort said. “We’re calling it the Neighborhoodbru. So, ‘neighborhood’ because it’s really tucked in this neighborhood, and then ‘bru’ because in South Africa ‘bru’ means brother. It has a double connotation.” And it sums up the General Admission ethos — the true Venice ethos — succinctly.