There’s nothing that quite irks me like the suggestion that San Francisco – or San Franciscans – lack style or fashion sense. In fact, Guy Trebay’s recent story in the New York Times got under my skin to such a degree last week that I actually made a phone call to Bay Citizen reporter Reyhan Harmanci from my hospital bed two days after giving birth via c-section to my son Walker just so I could comment on how skewed I thought the missive was.
Harmanci was working on a reaction piece to the story, and I just had to throw in my two cents, abdominal surgery, hospital gown and 48-hour-old baby notwithstanding. What got me so worked up?
For one thing, the story starts off referring to the supposed “tribes” of San Francisco (like we’re some kind of primitive fashion species out here on the West Coast). I’ve lived in San Francisco for over a decade, and I’ve never once heard anyone refer to any kind of “tribe” based around specific neighborhoods. Sure, you’ll see different styles on Chestnut vs. at the corner of 16th and Mission. But tribes? What?
I also take issue with the suggestion that San Francisco harbors a bunch of style rubes who haven’t heard of icons such as Tom Ford. There are plenty of people here who think fashion is interesting and make it a point to know the mainstream designers and labels. There are also plenty of people who couldn’t care less about the name on the inside of their shirt collar. But isn’t that also the case in New York? I know plenty of Manhattan dwellers who – get this – don’t think about fashion…ever, except maybe when the seasons change and they need a new pair of shoes.
But beyond the poor characterization of San Francisco’s fashion sense, I was more disappointed in what I felt the article completely missed. And that’s what is actually happening here in terms of fashion. There may not be a fashion industry here in the way that there is in New York or Paris, but that’s beside the point. That’s like comparing San Francisco to Vegas and criticizing it for its lack of mega casinos. What the City by the Bay does have is a really intriguing fashion-tech convergence, the evidence of which is being born out in the presence of companies such as Chictopia, Lookbook.nu, TheFind.com, Moxsie, Polyvore and ModCloth (recently relocated from Pittsburgh). And then there’s the fact that the Independent Fashion Bloggers organization is headquartered here (or rather, its founder Jennine Jacobs is). There’s also a thriving independent fashion community in San Francisco made up of hundreds of independent artists, designers, artisans and crafters who participate in a wide range of events and shows each week. Sure, it’s not New York Fashion Week, but there again, that’s not the point – no one here is trying to compete with New York or any of the other major fashion capitals.
Instead, Bay Area-ites seem much more interested in geek chic, bike fashion, innovative eco fashion and the locally-made movement championed by non-profits like SFMade.org.
The story didn’t touch on any of the above trends in apparel and accessories, nor did it mention eco-fashion innovations taking place here thanks to labels such as Mr. Larkin and PACT and organizations such as Global Action Through Fashion.
I’d go on, but I’m tired (I am, remember, about a week into caring for a newborn).
Here’s hoping that the next story I read about San Francisco’s fashion scene in a national publication touches on some of the above. To do otherwise would be missing the reality of San Francisco fashion. But then, maybe that’s inevitable unless you’ve taken the time to talk to more than just a handful of usual suspect sources (many of whom had to do with the food industry, despite the story’s ostensible focus on style).