Mitchells Palm Springs
Owner Mitchel Karp Turns Up the Heat on Designer Vintage!
By Barbara Beckley
“I love the edgy styles of the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s. When fashion was hot!” declares Mitchel Karp, owner of Mitchells Palm Springs. “Think Sonny and Cher, Barbra Streisand, Bob Mackie. Fashion was authentic and original then.”
But Mitchel doesn’t confine himself, either. “I specialize in vintage clothing and accessories for men and women spanning the decades from the ‘60s to the 2000s—and contemporary designer resale.”
Stepping inside his cozy boutique, chances are good you’ll find the perfect piece. His racks are packed with fabulous finds – Emilio Pucci, Zandra Rhodes, Yves Saint Laurent, Halston, Loris Azzaro, Thierry Mugler and dozens of others. Walking to the back, there’s a huge vintage menswear collection, and a counter loaded with Ted Lapidus and other brilliant vintage designer sunglasses – arguably the valley’s best collection. It was sunglasses that first introduced me to Mitchel years ago, when I was writing an article on Palm Springs’ sunglasses. “Go to Mitchells,” friends advised, “he’s got the best vintage collection.” And so he does. I not only got a great story, I bought an amazing pair of red vintage Dior sunglasses – simply killer.
What’s Mitchel’s secret to success -- and our good fortune? “I think of my boutique as a museum, and I’m the curator and the docent,” he explains. It’s obviously a philosophy that works. Mitchel calls upon his background – first using his exquisite sense of style from his New York fashion heritage, and second, his precision for detail and accuracy stemming from his successful career in high tech (who knew these callings could mix so beautifully!?) – to create one of the desert’s best go-to boutiques for designer vintage wear.
As any dedicated docent, Mitchel is on hand to greet you, and point out his newest and favorite finds. But he may not be the first one you meet. Look down -- and more often than not, you’ll first see Riley – a bright-eyed, 4.5 pound blonde Chihuahua that Mitchel rescued from the Palm Springs Animal Shelter – scampering over to check you out. “Little Riley is the love of my life,” enthuses Mitchel.
You might even spot a celebrity, too. With all this high caliber wear – it’s only natural that Mitchells attracts high-caliber clientele. Mitchel recalls the day Sandra Oh came in and purchased a sleek black leather jumpsuit by North Beach Leather. And Zac Efron came in and bought some tees and shirts.
Where did Mitchel acquire his talent for fashion?
It’s in his genes. Mitchel was born in New York City and grew up in Hudson, New York, where his parents owned a nearby department store! Remember those? When each of our cities had a wonderful independently-owned department store that sold everything. Mitchel’s parents owned theirs for 50 years, the Philmont Department Store, and Mitchel worked there as a teenager. “This laid the foundation for my work ethic and my expertise in retail,” he told me.
And what an expertise it is. While studying at Northeastern University he went to work for Bloomingdales in Boston – and became the fashion coordinator for the entire store!
But fashion was just a sideline back then. After graduating with a degree in Computer Science, Mitchel moved to Los Angeles in 1987 and ran a successful IT consulting company. He expanded his IT business to Palm Springs – and, of course, fell in love with the destination. In 1999, he bought a Palm Springs home (still keeping his Beverly Hills residence). IT was flourishing – but Mitchel decided he wanted a change – a business that was not related to the tech world.
Hmmm…. “I figured since I did fashion at Bloomies in the early ‘80s – why not in Palm Springs? And if I put my heart and soul into it, hopefully it would flourish.” So in 2013, Mitchel decided to share his love of fashion and style with others and opened Mitchells Palm Springs. And flourish it has.
“My greatest satisfaction is seeing people loving the fashions I love, and then putting their own spin on it. After all, fashion is truly individual.” He also loves when clients are so pleased with their purchases they send him Instagram photos wearing it. Which happens a lot. Remember my red Dior sunglasses? My spin was to send him a photo of a friend’s poodle wearing them. They looked great – after all, they’re both French. Most recently, an entire family came in looking for vintage clothing. They were celebrating a special occasion with a vintage photo shoot by a professional photographer, Mitchel explains. “They bought all their vintage wear from me. They were so happy. Later they sent me the photos – they looked gorgeous.”
Mitchel is also proud to be the president of Temple Isaiah, an E. Steward Williams-designed midcentury jewel, in Palm Springs. “It gives me great joy to be the captain of this amazing ship, an epicenter of Jewish life in the Coachella Valley.” And oh yes, he still keeps a few IT corporate clients, as well.
106 S. Indian Canyon Drive | 760-864-1515