May 13, 2011

Things That Keep Me Up At Night

Last night I couldn't sleep. The usual thoughts of Birkins and new clothes kept me awake, but there was another pressing matter that has come up for discussion: does San Francisco matter when it comes to fashion? Trying to answer this question is like opening a can of worms. This could lead to heated debates, feelings would get hurt, and so on and so forth. But let's take a step back and analyze the situation through the eyes of fashion critics. A few days ago, Cathy Horyn did an interview for Refinery29 that struck chord with me. The piece revealed:

So, your Times colleague, Guy Trebay, recently called San Francisco “the land that style forgot.” After hanging out here for a little bit, do you have an opinion on that?
“Well, I don’t know, but I would say that must be wrong. Guy does come out here fairly often. I don’t want to challenge his opinion of it, because it’s his opinion. But the world is so different now, and everybody has some kind of style. It feels like a stereotype of San Francisco.”

I am mortified that Guy Trebay would say that about San Francisco, not only because I love this city, but also because my insecurities get the best of me when a fashion writing great casts a shadow on your home base. I feel like Horyn side-stepped the question with her ambivalent answer, and I do not blame her because of her involvement with the fashion department of the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. Do you agree? Did style happen to just forget the booming metropolis of the city by the Bay? I don't think so. There is certainly style in San Francisco. It may be on a smaller scale, hidden beneath a plethora of jaded attitudes and carelessness, but it's there. There is still a small group of people genuinely passionate about the art, business, and importance of fashion. The problem for San Francisco as a fashion capital is that the majority of the inhabitants of the city lack a desire or reason to get dressed up. Simply put, no one cares.

In my 7+ years living in San Francisco, I have never felt the overt granola/earthiness that the rest of the nation claims the city to have. There is an acknowledgment of a market for vegetarian/vegan food and a large population of hippies, but generally speaking San Francisco is pretty diverse when it comes to lifestyles. It is natural that trends and styles would emerge from the many subcultures co-existing here. A stereotype that is true about San Francisco is the casual and laid-back mindset applied to appearance. For example, it seems as though your average hipster here in San Francisco is a dirty troll compared to the well-dressed hipsters of New York. In NYC, they make looking dirty just a little bit cleaner than they do in SF. I think this is because there is a greater acceptance and adoption of fashion in New York culture.

Danielle Steel's latest profile in The Wall Street Journal brings up more damning evidence. The famous writer says that, “San Francisco is a great city to raise children, but I was very happy to leave it. There's no style, nobody dresses up—you can't be chic there. It's all shorts and hiking books and Tevas—it's as if everyone is dressed to go on a camping trip. I don't think people really care how they look there; and I look like a mess when I'm there, too.” With all respect to Ms. Steel, I simply do not have functions and things to go to, but I am perfectly chic when I want to be. But she does make a valid point about looking a mess when she comes to San Francisco. It is easy to have a "day off" from looking cute when no one really cares about your clothes in the first place. This type of insight from a native wealthy San Franciscan can be a little skewed (especially since she lives in Paris now), but I agree with it to some extent. I wouldn't feel so bad leaving the house a little sloppy here, but I would be damned if I were ever caught in a bad outfit in New York. Is this because SF is my home or because fashion doesn't matter in SF?

Tonight I met a textile designer working with his wife designing women's apparel here in San Francisco. He shared my sentiments with the difficulty in building a fashion brand and business in the Bay Area, and the lack of jobs and industry as a whole. It made me think about why that is. The Bay Area is certainly known for it's tech community, and SF spawns great talent in the arts. There is no shortage of money here, but the greatest triumph in fashion for the city may be in the retail sector. There are flourishing shopping districts all over the city with an endless supply of tourism to boot. Unfortunately, fashion as a part of local culture has not developed. There is a deep understanding of the fashion world in New York, and Los Angeles has Hollywood and image as a driving force behind style. This is why when you compare SF to those other cities, it can seem completely oblivious to fashion.

I love San Francisco. It has been my home for years, and the Bay Area will always hold a special place in my heart. Fashion may not be as important here as in other cities in the nation, but I like to think that it is slowly coming along. Style can be seen in many chic people, but of course there are many fashion victims here too as in any city. Fashion plays a large role in my life and I believe that San Francisco is/could be an excellent hub for the industry one day, but it is true it has nothing on New York and Europe.

Something to think about.

And it was worth losing sleep over, I got my second Brikin this morning!! Photos and more updates soon.

- jerome


  1. Excellent post Jerome!!! you hit on all aspects about San Francisco fashion.

  2. Thanks!! Writing this was like therapy haha

    - jerome

  3. I kind of totally agree with Danielle Steele and the other guy. I am currently in San Francisco and have a ton of new designer clothes I just bought this season but haven't worn much of them out because quite frankly, I feel like no one here would give a fuck if I was wearing a Raf Simons jacket or Rick Owens trousers.

    San Francisco is a great city, I love the tech culture, and how health conscious and what great weather and sights it has, but I can't wait to move back to London so I can dress up a lot more.

  4. You're absolutely right. And that is exactly my point. People in this city who know about Raf and Rick don't really have an outlet, which is truly unfortunate. But they still exist in this city. Granted, they are transplants, but SF is such a transition city for many people.

    I can agree with Ms. Steel and Mr. Trebay to certain degree. I feel like there are no occasions to wear my McQueen or Dries, but I wear it anyway (even to family parties) because the clothes make me feel good - regardless of weather or not anyone knows the designer. When two fashion people DO meet in SF, it is like a secret society where "subtle" stare down is a secret handshake and proper respect is paid.

    What is truly limiting for me here is the weather and the venues I choose to socialize in. The thought of rain soaking into these garments gives me great anxiety, and I refuse to sweat or have a drink spilled onto a $900 shirt haha

    - jerome