Laura Peach

So long, Bryant Park: SF students show at Fashion Week’s last season in the tents


As the New York fashion world flicked a sassy over-the-shoulder wave and bid its Bryant Park home goodbye — Fashion Week will move to Lincoln Center starting next season — six students from San Francisco’s Academy of Art University fretted and beamed as their projects took the stage before the eyes of famed industry professionals.

For the past five years, AAU has been showing select student’s work during New York Fashion week, to give promising graduates exposure and to lure new students out to the Bay Area. Bethany Meuleners’ story is a case in point: three and a half years ago, she secured a seat as a prospective featured student, sat in the audience, and dreamed of seeing her own designs on the runway. Serendipitously, she graduated just in time to have her goal realized. “I can’t believe I’m here! In Bryant Park!” Meuleners told me before the show. “It’s such an iconic thing.”

It’s difficult to piece together a coherent narrative from the collections of six individual designers, but this season seemed to play a gothic darkness (three of the students’ offerings were almost entirely black) off a theme best summed up as “monochrome time traveler.”

The most captivating and curious of the black camp was the work of Sabah Husain, which seamlessly distilled the glitz and glitter of India into wearable yet sophisticate outerwear. Husain brought the cut glass of a chandelier that had dazzled her back to her native India to be replicated into gemstones that she sewed into her designs — long felted jackets dripping with jewels, coats fit for a king. “This was my journey of moving from one aesthetic to another,” explained Husain. “In India, garments are largely draped, while in Western culture, they are all constructed.” Hopefully her cultural fusion will continue on in future garment construction.

Meuleners’ designs went for disassembled gothic, characterized by dark metallic bodysuits, lace dresses, and worn combat boots. Haphazard additions in flowing black silk chiffon created a perfect wardrobe for a sparkly vampire. It is a strange reality from a vision of an innocent child’s game. “I like having a story in mind when I design,” she said. “This was about a little girl playing dress up in her mom’s closet, throwing on clothes.” Meuleners mentioned that she used to shop her own mother’s closet for formals… the mother of this collections’ closet may need to have her fangs filed.

A departure from the shimmer and shine were the sculpted knits of Steven Oo. Creaturesque sweaters gave girls stegosaurus spines, and coned details on shoulders scratched towards wearer’s necks. Oo’s commanding demeanor (crucial for survival in the fashion world) may serve him better than his diligence or technical experimentation. Calm and collected backstage, he stood with a tie purposefully undone over a printed t-shirt, waving a lint roller over garments as he talked. “I was most worried about fitting with the new models,” Oo admitted. “But the knits treated me well.” Each piece took 40 to 60 hours of hand- and machine-knitting to create.

The work of the other students was a spray of light colors — whites, grays, and tans — on a trip: up to space, out on safari, and into the past.

The standout collection among the students consited of the six sculptural, cosmically conceptual looks that sweet and quiet Hyo Sun An sent out. Ornately fringed jumpsuits constructed from one continuous piece of fabric brilliantly transposed form over figure. An was searching through a science magazine for inspiration. Intrigued by the concepts of the Mobius strip and Klein bottle, An chose wool and jersey in gorgeous and complex gray tones to explore fluidity in fashion.

Lady Grace met desert expedition with Marina Solomatnikova’s sand suede suits. “I wanted to play between masculine and feminine,” she said after the show, still shaking with exhilaration. Masculine elements were present in heavy tailoring and femininity shown through in organza ruffles and deeply cut backs, resulting in six outfits that would be perfect for a duchess on an African safari.

Naomi Sutton, with an easy laugh that kept her blond hair shifting over her delicate shoulders, recounted her numerous trips to Bay Area vintage stores and fabric remnant warehouses to find the white and cream velvets and laces she printed with delightful images of chubby children playing, based on of her childhood memories. Traipsing down the runway, models became enchanted sleepwalkers dressed in ghosty gauzes. Aprons and silky ribbons gave a sense of nostalgia. Stepping into Sutton’s dresses is stepping into a whimsical past.

The six students are all back in San Francisco, frequenting their favorite inspiration spots — city beaches, Union Square — while the current class has its eyes locked on Lincoln Center and next season.

New art and style on Geary


With a calm demeanor and a pulled-together, no-nonsense appearance, Claudia Altman-Siegel isn’t an obvious suspect when it comes to identifying the driving force behind a conceptual art show that draws well-heeled European tourists and people clad in Converse shoes and skinny jeans. Both types, and more, are drawn to Matt Keegan’s "Postcards & Calendars," where they’re confronted by an eight-foot list of days of the week and a larger-than-life photograph of a New York Times reader hidden behind dismal headlines.

The four month-old Altman Siegel Gallery is set apart from neighboring galleries by its inclusion of a window, a trait that trades art hermeticism for the possibility of sunshine. Street noise is present but not disruptive — a reminder that another world exists beyond the space’s light cocoon of images and ideas. It has a distinctively different aura from the other galleries in the 49 Geary St. building, something Altman-Siegel says she is "sort of blind to."

After 10 years of work in New York City, Altman-Siegel slipped over to San Francisco to fill a gap in the West Coast gallery scene, bringing emerging local and internationally established artists who are still early on the trajectory to significance in the art canon.

Local art or specificity is prominent in Altman-Siegel’s curatorial work to date. The current show, though by a New York artist, includes sketches of familiar San Francisco street corners. Bay Area artist Trevor Paglen’s surreal cosmic photographs were the focus of the gallery’s first solo show.

Across the street, mannequins wearing teal trousers topped by black, multipocketed jackets and craftily reconstructed vintage dresses stand defiantly among an installation of birch tree branches and rusted machinery. A former STA travel office has been transformed into Shotwell, a cutting-edge update of a funky Aunt Edna boutique.

Newlyweds Michael and Holly Weaver needed somewhere to hawk their extensive collection of vintage clothes. When they landed a lease at 36 Geary St., the shop expanded to fuse groundbreaking European fashion and clothes by Bay Area designers. Denim from local menswear line B.Son is paired with chic shirts by Parisian collective Surface2Air. Shape-shifting square dresses from the San Francisco duo Please Dress Up! hang alongside bold separates by British label Scout. On the other side of Silverman Gallery’s recent move to Sutter Street, the openings of Shotwell and Altman-Siegel suggest that something new and bold is creeping up on Union Square.

12 sweet spots


Spring and summer are sweet seasons. Rays of sunshine and blossoming flowers make for happy eyes and noses. Why not let your tongue join in too with a sugary treat? And these desserts are sweet deals too: all 12 of these delights cost less than $5.


Start the morning off sugar-rich right with a ring of wonder from Dynamo Doughnuts. Every light, airy doughnut at the streetside outpost is delicious, from the simple vanilla bean to the complex seasonal flavor combinations like huckleberry with Meyer lemon frosting. But the gooey caramel that tops the caramel del sol is to die for.

2760 24th St., SF. (415) 920-1978;


Mochas at Bittersweet are great. This is a fact. But here’s a secret: they also make their own marshmallows, which are incredible when eaten alone. This confectionary delight will send a dusting of powdered sugar all over you as the air-light marshmallow melts in your mouth. Never again will Jet-Puff suffice.

2123 Fillmore, SF. (415) 346-8715; 5427 College, Oakland, (510) 654-7159;


Never mind the cones and cups, at famous ice creamery Mitchell’s, the sandwiches will give double the sweet delight. After sampling a few flavors — like toasted almond Mexican chocolate, and green tea — pick a favorite and have it shmooshed it between two Otis Spunkmeyer chocolate chip cookies.

688 San Jose, SF. (415) 648-2300;


For a truly life changing experience, get a shot of the drinking chocolate at the Tcho pier outpost. If you don’t have a keen eye, the little retail space, adjacent to the factory where the delicate fair-traded chocolate is made, is easy to miss. But the powerful, decadent drinking chocolate is so buoyant with flavor — notes of citrus and nut — that it’s impossible to forget. In fact, I almost couldn’t stand to swallow it. I wanted that silky chocolate in my mouth forever.

Pier 17, SF. (415) 981-0189,


If I had an Italian grandmother, I imagine that her kitchen would be something like Mara’s, where the windows overflow with cookies and croissants and fading posters of the motherland covered the walls. Her cannoli would be the perfect mix of decadent, but not overly sweet, ricotta filling with the occasional chocolate chip and crisp sand-colored crust. Good thing I can slide up to North Beach to enjoy Mara’s cannoli as a grandma substitute.

503 Columbus, SF. (415) 397-9435


When I need a sweet finger-lickin, stomach-filling something, I settle down on a stool at Southern food joint Just for You Cafe and order a plate of beignets. Not quite as satisfying as the puffs at New Orleans’ Café du Nord, but still deep-fried powdered sugar drowned squares of down-home goodness.

732 22nd St., SF. (415) 647-3033,


While we’re all a little bored of the Carrie Bradshaw cupcakers, sometimes a little cake with frosting is simply necessary. Pretty pink Marina cupcake boutique Kara’s Cupcakes has a delicious selection. The rich espresso-buttercream-frosted java cupcake is delightful.

3249 Scott, SF. (415) 536-2253,


A big smile (and maybe a wink) will get you a sample from one of the glass jars filled with goodies that line the walls of the Candy Store in Russian Hill. Bubble-gum balls, gummy bears, licorice, malted milk balls, snowcaps, whatever your candy craving may be, the Candy Store has. Just be careful — this is a child’s dream world and snatching a cantaloupe-sized rainbow lollipop out of the hands of a wide-eyed tyke won’t go over so well with the shop girl.

1507 Vallejo, SF. (415) 921-8000,



The long glass case that runs the length of Schubert’s Bakery in the Richmond District displays the most delectable selection of cakes I’ve ever seen. The bakery has been a city institution for almost a century, and I have no doubt it’s because life is incomplete without their currant mousse and classic cheesecake.

521 Clement, SF. (415) 752-1580,


For French treats in an English garden-inspired atmosphere, the madeleines at Miette can’t be beat. The tiny fluffy, moist, shell-shaped cakes are delightful when paired with cappuccinos or tea, and may induce a Proustian awakening after a long, tiring day.

2109 Chestnut, SF. (415) 359-0628,


Truffles are a standard luxury, one not often married to sleek and slightly cheeky design. Haight Street chocolate shop CocoLuxe dusts the top of each of their ganache truffles with a little picture that tells the flavor — from teapots and angels to gingerbread men and oranges. Best enjoyed while kicking back in one of the white retro chairs in the mod space.

1673 Haight, SF. (415) 367-4012,


When willing to go further afield — both in culinary palate and location — the cream-filled, egg-shaped waffles at Eggettes are worth the adventure. Hong Kongers eat eggettes, a popular street food served in paper bags punched with holes, for breakfast. I can’t handle the pastel-drowned Easter-egg interior of the Sunset District shop before 10 a.m., but certainly enjoy the warm puffs as an afternoon snack.

3136 Noriega, SF. (415) 681-8818,

Green living resource guide


Living green is not just about buying organic vegetables and riding a bike. It’s about making conscious choices about where you shop, what you buy, and how you interact with your environment. Here are some resources that can help you align your lifestyle with your values.

Down at Home: Greening your domestic life starts with revising your habits, but the next step is revising your actual surroundings. A consultation from the folks at Sustainable Spaces (1167 Mission, SF. 415-294-5380, will identify the areas where you can make the most substantial difference. You can pick up green building supplies, like bamboo flooring or zero-VOC paint, from the savvy staff at Berkeley’s Eco Home Improvement (2169 San Pablo, Berk. 510-644-3500, Also consider leasing a solar panel from Solar City (2245 Quesada, SF. 800-765-2489,, a company that will come out and install a solar panel on your house. (You don’t have to put any money down and the lease may be less then your monthly utility bill.)

In the Bag: Shopping is a fact of life. We all need to clothe and feed ourselves. Opt organic where you can. For green threads, from jeans and tees to sexy slipdresses, shop crisp Russian hill boutique EcoCitizen (1488 Vallejo, SF. 415-614-0100, Fill the fridge with locally sourced and organic food from eco-thoughtful co-op Rainbow Grocery (1745 Folsom, SF. 415-863-0620, or natural market Real Foods (2140 Polk, SF. 415-673-7420; 360 Fillmore, SF. 415-567-6900,

On the Street: We live in a bike-friendly city, and the folks at Valencia Cyclery (1077 Valencia, SF. 415-550-6600) are stoked to put you on spokes. If you still drive, drive green. Take your car to the friendly mechanics at clean, inviting Luscious Garage (429 Clementina, SF. 415-875-9030,, where broken auto parts are recycled and all invoices are digitized to save paper. Fill the tank with locally produced biofuel at Dogpatch Biofuels (765 Pennsylvania, SF. 415-643-3435,

Skin and Soul: Stock up on health and wellness info, vitamin supplements, and chemical-free skincare products at Clary Sage Organics (2241 Fillmore, SF. 415-673-7300, If facials are your beauty indulgence of choice, go for an organic option at Epi Center MedSpa (450 Sutter, Ste 800, SF. 415-362-4754,, which is housed in a lovely, LEED certified space. Find focus and balance—and at mat made of recycled materials—at The Yoga Loft (321 Divisadero, SF. 415-626-5638,

Out and About: You don’t have to eat at Café Gratitude to dine green. Check out Thimmakka (, an organization which helps restaurants and bars — most of them small, independently owned, and ethnic — become more eco-friendly. Thimmakka maintains a list of places they’ve certified, including San Miguel’s (3263 Mission, SF. 415-641-5866) delicious Guatamalan cuisine and Elixir’s (3200 16th St., SF. 415-522-1633, organic cocktails. Then shake your booty on the dance floor at Temple (540 Howard, SF., where the owner is so committed to being environmentally friendly that he’s working on a way to harness dancers’ energy to power the place. Catch a flick at Red Vic Movie House (1727 Haight, SF. 415-668-3914, a co-op that offers organic snacks.

Giving back: Support small businesses who are trying to be greener by using a Viv sticker (sign up at Every time you show it to a participating local shop or eatery, you’ll push the business to shift to greener cleaning products or energy efficient lights.

Onward and upward


With a statewide unemployment rate of 10.5 percent and industries crumbling, it almost seems absurd to think about making upward career moves. But an awful economy doesn’t need to equal personal unhappiness in your work life. Dena Sneider, a career counselor of 15 years and cofounder of the Bay Area Career Center (, gave us some advice on what to do to for your career in the current economic climate.

Don’t stay stuck. If you’re not content with your current job, start the process of figuring out what type of work is best for you. Can’t get yourself out of bed on a Monday morning? No excitement, energy, or engagement in your work? Sounds like it’s time to start searching for a position that will use your skills and make you happier. The economy is in turmoil, which can mean that opportunities are opening up for those keeping an eye out.

Keep perspective. If you’ve recently been laid off and need to find a job just to pay the bills, keep in mind that it’s only temporary. "Take jobs knowing exactly why you are there," says Sneider. "Be prepared for your move back into your career when the time comes."

Explore other options. "The best time to figure out what you want to do is when you are employed — you can network, take classes, or volunteer," says Sneider. Start planning for a career change several months or a few years from now. If you’re unemployed, take advantage of any opportunities you can to gain experience. Sneider often meets people who know what they don’t want, but not what they do want, and they spend time sorting through hundreds of ideas.

Think outside the box. "People who were passionate about what they did are losing careers right now and not knowing what they’ll do," says Sneider. "What people did to make a living may not be possible now, but they can find something close." Think about how your talents can be used in a different industry. Perhaps your passions can be channeled though a new outlet. Or you may find that you can revitalize rusty skills or lean new ones.

Be optimistic. "Just because finding the right job is harder now, does not mean it is not possible," Sneider reminds us. "Be optimistic — once you figure out what you want, go forward!"

San Francisco style



When it comes to fashion, San Francisco is an interesting paradox. Bay Area designers and consumers are notoriously innovative, politically conscious, and stylishly playful. Many who grow up or study here go on to make waves on a national or international scale. And yet this city still is not considered a global style center in the way that New York, Paris, or Milan are. In recent years, even L.A. seems to be getting more attention as a legitimate fashion capital than San Francisco.

With spring (and spring fashion lines) afoot, we decided to profile some of our favorite local designers — those who, regardless of their popularity outside city limits, have decided to stay put or move here to contribute to the San Francisco fashion design dialogue. We predict it won’t be long before the fashion establishment is singing their praises — and wearing their designs. 269-fashioncover.jpg On Lawrence Cuevas and Marivel Mendoza, from left to right: 1) Denim double pocket shirt, avocado tee and twill shorts by Turk+Taylor; 2) Leather jacket and sheer top by Mi, leather hotpants by Shaye, jewelry by Muscovie Design; 3) Raindrop dress by Sara Shepherd, kit leather button shoes by Al’s Attire, jewelry by Muscovie Design; 4) Leather jacket and jeans by Mi, dot tee by Turk+Taylor, white tie by Indie Industries, wing-tip shoes by Al’s Attire; 5) White tee by Mi, corset skirt by Shaye, jewelry by Joy O, polka-dot hat by Al’s Attire. (All Photos by Jeffery Cross. Photo illustration by Mirissa Neff. Styling by Lauren Cohen, Laura Peach, and Juliette Tang. Hair and makeup by Shamika Baker)



With delicate features, a smattering of transparent freckles and dark blonde hair that hangs in messy curls to her elbows, Shaye McKenney could be a model. But her approach to fashion is more altruism than narcissism. After returning from an extended sojourn that took her to India, tribal Amazon, and on many nomadic adventures in between, the Oakland native and daughter of a designer opened La Library on Guerrero Street a borrow-or-buy boutique whose purpose is to make stylish clothing available to all.

“The sense of ownership we have is not sustainable,” says McKenney, whose business model was inspired by the designer handbag rental concept seen in Sex and the City. Which is why she doesn’t just sell outright the airy white dresses, embroidered linen jumpsuits, and leather hot pants she makes from her mother’s fabric remnants. It’s passion for social change — as well as for a good pattern and great fit — that drives her. The whole point is being able to share. “We should not have to sacrifice glamour and art because of money and a bad economy.”



Tucked away in a former North Beach butcher shop among towers of vintage hatboxes and fabric bolts stacked to the ceiling, custom clothier Al Ribaya is king of the cutting board. His old world tailor shop Al’s Attire makes every imaginable piece of clothing to order, paying more attention to detail than profit. “It’s a difficult thing to make money at,” he admits. “People don’t know what it takes to build something one stitch at a time.”

The other distinguishing factor about Ribaya’s shop is that he outfits people from head to toe. Using the same effort, energy, and remarkable focus, he makes everything from shoes crafted with soles of repurposed tire treads or turn-of-the-century buttons to suits, shirts, pants, jackets, skirts, and dresses. He even makes hats from suit fabric remnants. Every garment is custom labeled with the wearer’s name (alongside Al’s, of course). But despite all this retro hard work (and handiwork), Ribaya’s styles are remarkably fresh and modern. 269-fashiondoll1.jpg On Lawrence, clockwise from top: 1) Striped hat by Al’s Attire; 2) Double-pocket zippered denim shirt by Turk+Taylor; 3) Chambray golf jacket by Al’s Attire; 4) Dark denim jeans by Mi, 5) Silver wing-tip shoes by Al’s Attire; 6) Seersucker shorts by Turk+Taylor, 7) Brown leather jacket by Mi; 8) Avocado tee by Turk+Taylor. Underwear and socks by American Apparel.



What if one piece of clothing could be worn seven different ways? What would happen if you took a jacket and turned it upside-down? Or backward? These are the questions that the innovative, boundary-breaking creative minds at Harputs Collective have been asking. Their answer— called the swacket —hangs beside an oversized mirror in the airy industrial Harputs Own shop. The collective members are waiting for curious customers to come and play with the architectural sweater/jacket outerwear—putting it on backward, changing the swooping collar into a hood, then flipping it upside-down and adding a belt, until the most flattering fit is found.

The studio was started in September, a serendipitous confluence of a few thoughtful designers, a retiring tailor who stocked the store with fabrics and machinery, and an established high-end retailer with such a sense of play he will dye garments from New York lines when they are past season just to see if they will sell better in indigo than white. Our favorite part? A garment that fits well and can be worn several ways is less likely to go out of style — and therefore inspires us to consume less. (Our least favorite? They declined to participate in our fashion shoot. But we love ’em anyway.)



Mi Concept‘s visionary pieces are offered as a bespoke capsule collection for people who appreciate fashion-forward, cutting-edge design — and who aren’t afraid to look like time travelers from some distant utopian future.

Before designing any piece of clothing, Dean Hutchinson, creative director of the Mi Concept, asks himself, “How do I stimulate conversation?” The purpose, Hutchinson, says, is to challenge people to think beyond fashion. It must be working: ever since Mi Concept emerged at 808 Sutter last December, conversation and buzz have followed.

Peek inside the unmarked store and you’ll find an eerie modernist sarcophagus illuminated by fluorescent tubes, where dauntingly expensive-looking clothes cling to hangers as if worn by invisible ghosts. Together the space and the clothing create a synthesis of progressive, modern design.

Hutchinson eschews classic forms in favor of postmodernist distortion, working with asymmetrical lines and deconstructed shapes, often incorporating multiple silhouettes in a single garment to create an effect that evades easy labeling in any genre. “The other day someone said it was like a marriage between Rick Owens and Jil Sander,” Hutchinson said. “That was sort of flattering. But I don’t think about fashion like that. I have an initial idea, and then it just takes on it’s own life. It’s art.” 269-fashiondoll2.jpg On Mari, clockwise from top: 1) Bias-cut raindrop dress by Sara Shepherd; 2) Rouched front dress with pockets by Jules Elin; 3) Bell sleeve wrap jacket by Jules Elin; 4) Corset skirt with teal detail by Shaye; 5) Kit leather button boots by Al’s Attire; 6) Brown leather hotpants by Shaye; 7) Black leather jacket with sleeve zippers by Mi; 8) Polka dot hat by Al’s Attire; 9) Zipper-front dress by Turk+Taylor. Underwear and socks by American Apparel.



Jules Elin’s designs for women are simple and casual, without sacrificing style. The ideal wearer seems to be someone who is practical and comfortable but can appreciate the occasional coquettish detail — like a bell sleeve or a floral lining — on an otherwise unembellished piece.

While Elin is conscious of seasonal trends, there is nothing overtly “fashion-y” about her classic silhouettes: a swing coat is spruced up with extra-large buttons, a zippered jacket is adorned with a ruffled Peter Pan collar, and both are stylish without coming across as self-consciously en vogue. Elin’s pieces are made with organic cotton and get bonus points for not having to be dry-cleaned. On being called an eco-designer, Elin reflects, “I never really thought of it as being progress; I thought it was the right thing to do.”

When it comes to the designs themselves, San Francisco is always an inspiration. “There’s a lot of movement and architecture to the pieces,” she says. “But they’re also really sweet in a way that matches the demographic of this city.” And it’s Bay Area weather that determines the length of Elin’s sleeves: always long enough to be worn over the hands when it’s cold. San Franciscans are responding positively in turn, and even the dire economy hasn’t slowed the growth of her brand. “It’s just made me realize I can always work harder.”



When examining Turk+Taylor‘s well-edited collections of sustainable, nouveau-preppy clothes, the aesthetic appears so cohesive you could never tell that they nearly always result from a disagreement between the designers, Andrew Soernsen and Mark Lee Morris. “We fight all the time,” Soernsen proclaims. “We end up yelling.” During our interview, Soernsen and Morris often contradicted one another while answering the same questions — even the straightforward ones. “But somehow,” says Morris, “it all comes together.”

Soernsen and Morris don’t have fashion degrees. “We can’t sew. We aren’t pattern-makers.” The two designers run their business out of Soernsen’s apartment in NoPa, where boxes of samples are stacked on the floor, racks of clothes clutter every room, and eco-friendly fabrics perilously overflow from shelves and surfaces. Somehow, amid the jumble, they’ve managed to create beautiful collections of casual daywear year after year.

This year was the brand’s fifth, but neither Soernsen nor Morris has quit their day-jobs. “I don’t know how we have time to do this,” Soernsen admits. “We’re so unorganized.” The self-deprecating posturing belies the fact that they’ve grown into an influential label synonymous with San Francisco style. A perfect example? Pop into the SFMOMA store, and you’ll notice the museum tees are all by Turk+Taylor.



Sara Shepherd is, at heart, a contradiction: edgy London meets cuddly San Francisco. Originally from England, Shepherd moved to San Francisco to attend the Academy of Art University and stayed on to teach at the academy and create a fashion line out of her SOMA studio.

Shepherd’s Victorian menswear-inspired clothing evokes images of urban dandies and Byronic heroes, but her work is consciously feminine and innately modern. With tailoring that emphasizes shape over ornament, Shepherd draws her inspiration from classic British icons, whether fictional, like Alice in Wonderland, or real, like Elizabeth I. Despite the distant historical comparisons, her vision remains practical and wearable for San Francisco women who “know their own mind, who feel strong and confident in what they wear and who they are.” Like Elin, she’s also careful to consider San Francisco weather when designing. “There needs to be the opportunity to layer the clothes. There’s always, always a layer to them.” More local design! See our Pixel Vision blog for 50 more of SF’s hot designers and an exclusive guide to reconstructing a boring button-down into something better, with designer Miranda Caroligne.


Al’s Attire

1314 Grant, SF; 415-693-9900.

Harputs Own

1525 Fillmore, SF; 415-923-9300.

Indie Industries and Joy O. and

Available at Studio 3579, 3579 17th St., SF; 415-626-2533

Jules Elin

Available at Ladita, 827 Cortland, SF; 415-648-4397

Muscovie Design

Available at Collage Gallery, 1345 18th St., SF; 415-282-4401


808 Sutter, SF; 415-567-8080.

Sara Shepherd

Available at M.A.C. 387 Grove, SF; 415-863-3011


La Library, 380 Guerrero, SF; 415-558-9841


Available at ABfits 1519 Grant, SF; 415-982-5726

Home improvement



GREEN CITY If you’re thinking of greening your home, you might imagine that your that only option is to install expensive energy-efficient appliances — which many renters can’t do and many homeowners can’t afford. But don’t despair. There are ways to reduce your carbon footprint without significantly reducing your bank account, with or without a landlord’s help. Below are several tips from San Francisco’s premier green architect and eco-remodel guru Eric Corey Freed, principal at organicArchitect. His advice should make your home better for the environment and your utility bills.

Fridge Fundamentals The refrigerator is the single largest user of electricity in a household. Why make it work harder, pushing up your energy costs, by keeping it next to the oven? "Having a fridge and oven side by side is the stupidest thing I can think of that people do in kitchens," Freed laments. "An oven makes things hot, and a refrigerator is supposed to keep things cold — the two don’t belong together." Using the same rationale, it’s also a good idea to keep your fridge out of direct sunlight.

Also, if your fridge is more than a decade old, get over your attachment to the dated design and trade it in for a newer, energy efficient model. Pacific Gas and Electric Co. offers free pickups and a $35 rebate.

Think Thermal Heating your home is another major energy sucker. With more winter cold snaps on the way, investing one afternoon and less than $100 to heat smart will produce almost immediate results in lowering heating costs. The first place to look is your windows. While we love the light windows give, they are weak spots for heating. Freed suggests picking up a package of disposable window coverings ($20 for six windows). You may also be able to caulk around windows and vents to keep heat from escaping. Tubes cost less than $5 a pop.

Once you have your windows all snugged up, turn on the heat only when you need it. Freed recommends a programmable thermostat, which costs about $40. Once installed, you can set the heating to go down when you go to bed at night, kick on just before you get up in the morning, and shut off again when you leave for work. "It’s great, you just set it and forget it," Freed says. No more thumping your forehead at lunchtime realizing you left the heater cranking at home, using precious resources to warm empty rooms.

Shower Saver Most showers pour out 2.5 gallons of water per minute, but for $40 you can pick up an easy to install, water-conserving, lowflow showerhead that still gets you squeaky clean. Since many San Francisco buildings are old and hot water is slow to arrive, consider a model with a pause cord or stop switch. This holds the water in the pipes until it is warm and saves gallons of perfectly good water from being dumped down the drain while the heater warms up. Plus, renters can take the showerheads with them when they move to different digs.

Friendly Flushing Another way to conserve water — one that’s free and easy — is to add a full, two-liter water bottle to the toilet tank. This only takes a minute and eliminates a significant amount of water from being wasted every time you flush. Bottles are better than bricks, which also displace water but can damage your tank. If you’re feeling a little handier, grab a screwdriver and lower the float an inch or so. And if you’re feeling innovative, consider installing a toilet-top sink, which gives waste water a chance to be used more efficiently. This graywater system collects the tap water you use to wash your hands, then uses it to flush the toilet rather than sending it straight down the drain. (You’re washing with tap water, not toilet water, so there’s nothing dirty about it.) sells toilet-top sinks for about $100. It’s also an appliance you can take from home to home.

Letter your love



We usually think of Valentine’s Day gifts in terms of decadent chocolates, lush roses, glittering jewelry, and luxurious lingerie — pretty much everything except, well, valentines. You remember … those cards made out of paper, usually in some shade of red or pink, crowded with hearts, kiss marks, and Xs and Os? People once used them tell their sweeties — or would-be sweeties — how much they cared, before the annual celebration of romance transformed into an expensive dating ritual that requires flowers, chocolates, and fancy dinners.

Now that the economic crisis makes such extravagance imprudent, if not impossible, why not focus on finding an actual valentine for your love this year? Even if your ever-slimming wallet can’t sustain a dozen red roses, a big heart-shaped box of chocolates, and dinner for two at Jardiniere, you can still express your affection with an actual paper note personalized with a sentimental message. But don’t run off to the drugstore and settle for Hallmark cliché — San Francisco has several local, independent retailers with an eye for cards that are stylish, sweet, sentimental, and sexy. You can find just the right valentine to suit whatever your romantic situation may be this year — from casual hook-up to longterm love — if you know where to look.


At crisp, cheerful Glen Park boutique Perch (654 Chenery, SF; 415-586-9000,, Zoel Fages has harvested a splendid variety of valentines, including a handful of cheeky cards from local letterpress company Old Tom Foolery. These delightful cards use footnotes to clue in that gorgeous, if somewhat dense, special someone you’ve been lusting over. For example: a missive with bright pink letters asking "Will you be my valentine?*" is underscored by slightly smaller letters noting "*FYI: I’m easy." If paper and envelopes aren’t your thing, check out other options, like Moontea Artwork’s plushy hemp cotton pillow, block-printed with a red heart and the words "Je t’aime." It even has a handy pocket on the back, perfect for a handwritten note or a handful of condoms — and for displaying year-round.


When Cupid shot an arrow through the heart of Matthew Grenby, he used his techie background and design sensibilities to create e-mailable floral love letters for long-distance sweetheart Irene Chen. "When I opened the letter, I was wowed," Chen fondly remembers. "It was a wonderful feeling, like receiving a handwritten note, but it was online." Grenby wooed Lafayette native Chen away from New York and back to the Bay Area, where the couple turned Grenby’s innovative communication idea into e-stationary business iomoi ( A one-year, $15 subscription lets users select design templates, colors, and scripty fonts for classy e-cards. Sure, the concept is not exactly groundbreaking, but e-stationery is certainly more aesthetically pleasing than your standard box of Gmail text. And the lucky recipient will appreciate that you put time and thought into your presentation as well as your words. Plus, e-valentines are eco-friendly. "When people send e-stationary, they aren’t having to buy paper and don’t need a postman to drive around and use up gas," notes Grenby. Best of all, each of this year’s English-garden inspired designs — ornate floral borders, pale pink bumblebees, and crowned hearts — will be available in iomoi’s send-for-free section.


Antique European sentimental artifacts fill every worn wooden drawer and graceful glass countertop at whimsical curiosity shop Gypsy Honeymoon (3599 24th St., SF. 415-821-1713), where purveyor Gabrielle Ekedal has stocked up on the prettiest paperies from the past. Pluck a heartstring or two with a historical hand-tinted photocard from 1900s, where suited men with perfectly parted hair gaze at coiffed women in frilly frocks surrounded by a shower of pink flowers. Or pick out a pair of tiny paper hands, holding little cards inscribed with sweet sayings like "I live on love for thee." Our favorite? An embroidered souvenir postcard from the 1950’s which entices you to lift the billowing maroon skirt of a Spanish senorita standing on the seashore, under which you’ll find a little pair of lace panties. Scandalous!


If you’re searching for a more conventional card, an extensive selection of the classic heart-covered red and pink greetings can be found at Marina stationary shop Union Street Papery (2162 Union, SF. 415-563-0200, But owner Stacey Bush has several modern valentines for less formal loves as well. A card whose cover says "I like hanging out with you" — and whose interior qualifies "naked" will let your current casual hook-up partner know you’d like more of the same.


Some emotions are so intense that they can be handled only by the eyes of your lover. Invest in the Secret Love Letters Box from Chronicle Books to secure your most sensuous sentiments. Complete with both regular and invisible ink, old-fashioned nibbed pens, thick cream stationary, and tales of star-crossed lovers to refer to, this correspondence kit is worthy of a Romeo and Juliet romance. Pick one up at Mission Street print shop Autumn Express (2071 Mission, SF. 415-824-2222,


Peruse some of the tissue-thin vintage schoolhouse greetings resting among the delicate dishes and colorful aprons at Russian Hill’s old-new emporium Molte Cose (2044 Polk, SF. 415-921-5374). Retired San Francisco schoolteacher Ms. Bonar sold the lot of valentines that students had given her from 1920 to 1960 to proprietor Teresa Nittolo. One of the more suggestive selections shows a pudgy blonde boy, apple in hand, smiling and standing over the words "I may not be your teacher’s pet, but you’re my pet teacher." Another has a rosy-cheeked girl holding up the ruffle of her skirt, asking, "How can you resist my endearing young charms?" There is something irresistible — if not odd — about these sweet, simple valentines.

More Valentine’s shopping and style ideas, plus Laura Peach’s "Objects of Obsession" feature on our Pixel Vision blog

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