Spend any amount of time in and around San Francisco’s growing fashion community, and you’re likely to run into Owen Geronimo. Founder of the San Francisco Fashion and Merchants Alliance (SFFMA) and producer of local events such as this weekend’s San Francisco Fashion Week – The Reinvention and the ongoing Fashion Mash-ups series, Geronimo is constantly organizing gatherings that give local designers the opportunity to show their work in front of Bay Area fashion fans. But you’ll rarely spot Geronimo taking center stage at one of his events. Preferring to stick behind-the-scenes, Geronimo could even be called somewhat shy. In fact, we had to prod him into giving us the above photo, incognito as it is.
Luckily, he’s more much more willing to share his thoughts on the local fashion community than he is his facial features. Read on for Geronimo’s thoughts on San Francisco fashion, the revival of San Francisco fashion week, movies to watch for fashion inspiration and what new designers can do to better their chances of success.
Why is a strong local fashion community important to San Francisco as a whole?
It is important because it helps the local economy. Buying local also translates to sustainability. This consumer spending is a gauge that can be translated into market trends for technology services, such as social networking. The resurgence of credible fashion bloggers locally supports the indie scene that is flourishing. However, I currently see the fashion community as stagnant because no one is making a monumental impact to really carry the torch to the finish line. That is the big reason I created San Francisco Fashion And Merchants Alliance with very grass root beginnings. Fashion is about change and evolution, indeed.
What do you find challenging about working with San Francisco’s current fashion landscape?
The lack of knowledge or usage of proper technological tools that may advance one’s career in fashion. I moderate SFFAMA’s “Fashion Mash-Up” every month, so I try to incorporate current events within the topics. I prepare discussions that are current and useful to a budding fashion entrepreneur. Although blogging about fashion is now popular, the opportunity to generate income through affiliate marketing is not being applied by many – for example.
The lack of knowledge about the international fashion world. Of course, if you are an avid reader of Bryan Boy, Style Rookie and The Sartorialist, you have to be an exception. Reading SF Indie Fashion or any “IFB’ blog is a very good start, but The New York Times and Wall Street Journal fashion sections are great.
You’ve been working to support the San Francisco fashion community for several years now. How has the state of fashion in the City changed, for better or for worse, over the last two years?
First, in my opinion, in order to apply change, one needs to be willing to take a risk and open to new ideas like technology. Knowledge about the global economy is very essential, especially what is happening in the European Union, China and The Middle East. China is now the world power to watch. Without acknowledging this fact, Americans are at a very huge disadvantage. And how has this global change affected us locally? Huge. San Francisco is a metropolitan city that lacks the fashion ‘je ne sais quoi.’ We, as a community, have to be aware of the changing global economy to learn about new market trends and spending habits of a global consumer. Fashion is not only about runway shows. It is about import/export, merchandising, wholesale, beauty, luxury and the changes in the international rate exchanges.
Changes, however, have occurred on the technology front as far as social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Fashion blogging is a very popular media in the local fashion indie scene. The economy has also changed the landscape. Macy’s ‘Passport’ is now a one-day event at the Orpheum Theater.
We heard that you and the SFFMA are working to create a new San Francisco Fashion Week. Can you tell us more about that and what you have in the works?
The first project is titled “The Re-Invention.” It is aptly titled to emphasize the rebirth of this project. I want to present a new “San Francisco Fashion Week” that is unrelated to any productions of the past. I want to bring new glamour and sophistication to the local fashion scene. For this event, like “Pret-A-Porter San Francisco,” I’m also the creative director. I really enjoy the creative process. I take the mentor approach when interacting with the models, designers and the interns. Although I’m tough at times, I want them to understand that fashion shows are only one aspect of fashion. There is the more challenging level, which is the business aspect in all projects, especially fashion show production. The Reinvention is on July 30th and July 31st of 2010. You can find more about it at San Francisco Fashion Week: The REINVENTION.
In putting together the many events you produce, you encounter new and emerging artists, models, photographers and designers all the time. What advice do you have for creative people who are just starting out in the local fashion industry? How can they better their chances of success?
Learn about technology and accounting. You cannot function as a business owner or an entrepreneur without technology. You have to be really in tune with social media. I don’t mean giving shoutouts to your friends on Facebook, but about ‘tweeting’ and engaging yourself in other communities like Foursquare or mobile technologies.
You can start with a simple business plan and develop it as you go along. Think outside the box, be always original. Simple things, like having a lookbook ready, a web site that showcases your collection, a full design collection each season. Be realistic. Connect with the right people. Lastly, get inspired! I saw Tom Ford’s film A Single Man last night, it is beautiful. His attention to detail is impeccable. I also went through a fashion binge by watching September Issue and Lagerfeld Confidential.
Five years from now, what changes would you like to see in the San Francisco fashion scene?
A fashion district would be awesome. But, knowing the real estate market in San Francisco, that is a fantasy. I hope that our organization will be offering more sponsorship opportunities and business matchings with other organizations. And you can count on me on bringing more glamour and sophistication to the local fashion scene.
How can people get involved with the San Francisco fashion community?
Attend our monthly “Fashion Mash-ups” to listen to our great lineup of speakers that are in the business of technology and fashion. They are great mentors and hands-on from the many facets of the fashion industry. SFFAMA’s social network is the largest of its kind in Northern California with about 700 members. We also have over 1,200 members on Facebook. Attend our exclusive events and join SFFAMA’s social network.