By Christopher Nyerges
Since opening “Soft Humans” in Highland Park three years ago, Dominique Derouen has gained a near cult following for the shop’s vintage clothing and kitchen wares, vinyl records and music memorabilia, as well as its twice monthly flea market.
“I sell mostly used clothing, with mostly natural fabrics,” says Derouen. “I like the fashions of the late ’80s and early ’90s, the mall culture,” he says, describing his clothing selections as what a teen might find going to the mall in the 1980s. Derouen also sells designer Japanese clothing, and some rare items, like the black shirt with a Miles David print he showed me on a recent visit, holding it up and saying with a smile: “This is a Miles Davis original.”
Derouen is from Gilroy, California and lived in the Bay Area before moving to Highland Park in 2016. Before opening Soft Humans, he made his living running restaurants, including Sawyer and Kettle Black in Silver Lake. He also opened a restaurant in Topanga Canyon.
But clothing, especially vintage clothing, had always been his hobby and when he decided to open a shop in Highland Park, the venue and the business fell into place: The shop is located off of Figueroa Street on Avenue 58, near where the Highland Park farmers market takes place on Tuesdays. The building itself is vintage Highland Park: Before it was Soft Humans, it was a Zumba studio and before that a Christian church and before that a dental clinic.
Derouen says the site is ideal: Tuesday is a consistently good sales day because of shoppers from the farmers market, while the first and third Saturdays of each month, when the flea market takes place, are the busiest. Derouen sets up the flea market in the private parking lot just north of the store. There’s a DJ and various vendors selling plants, crafts, food and other goods, as well as Derouen selling Soft Humans’ vintage clothing. “The Saturday Vintage Craft Market has proven to be very successful,” says Derouen. “We get our biggest crowds at that event.”
When Derouen opened Soft Humans, he thought about half of his sales would come from vintage clothing and half from kitchen wares and music memorabilia. But these days, most of his sales are clothing, with only about a fourth are from his other offerings. “People sell me clothing, and I also hunt it out,” says Derouen. He also buys clothing at estate sales and sometimes buys in bulk.
Where does the name Soft Humans come from? Shoppers sometimes assume that the name alludes to soft clothing, says Derouen. “Actually, ‘Soft Humans’ was the name of a band I was very fond of,’ he says. “They were British musicians, and the name Soft Humans was short-lived, as they changed their name to Cleaners from Venus.” Derouen also likes to think of the name as referring to creative and sensitive people.
Soft Humans Vintage | 112 N. Avenue 58 | Open Tuesdays through Saturdays |Noon to 5 p.m. | 310-722-9449 | Instagram @softhumansshop Facebook