Situated in the heart of the Mission lies a wonderland brimming with items sure to render art collectors and fashion mavens alike giddy with excitement. That this half gallery, half boutique just so happens to be called Wonderland SF is altogether fitting – because that’s exactly what you’ll find inside.
Opening its doors to the Bay Area just over a year ago, this multifunctional space is owned and operated by Irene Hernandez-Feiks, who’s also a designer, art curator and DJ with a career in the Bay Area fashion and art industry that stretches back just over thirteen years. Now that her longtime dream of opening a gallery and boutique has become a reality, Hernandez-Feiks shows no signs of resting on her laurels. In recent weeks, she just started working on a new and as-yet-unnamed jewelry line and also has a clothing and t-shirt line in the works.
A well-known personality on the local fashion scene since the launch of Chillin’ events at 111 Minna through her production company Chillin’ Productions, Hernandez-Feiks is known for seeking out new talents and offering them a platform to showcase their work.
We caught up with Hernandez-Feiks recently to chat about her new jewelry line, independent fashion in San Francisco, and what is to come for Wonderland SF.
How did you break into fashion and art industry ?
I started my career 13 years ago at 111 Minna Gallery. I started doing Chillin’ events every Tuesday for happy hour. I would show different art and artists every week. I never took any commission from art sales or charged the designers to vend at the events. My dream was to create exposure and opportunity for local artists and designers, and in doing so to find a way to make money for these artists and designers. Chillin’ was the first sample sale in SF, and it was always free. Also, as a designer myself, I didn’t feel there was a platform for local designers and artists. I didn’t think they had the personality to promote themselves and their work, so I wanted to create an environment where they were able to do so and be recognized for their talent.
Why do you feel so passionate about supporting independent and local fashion, designers, and art in the Bay Area?
I love what Bay Area artists and designers are doing. I think they are so innovative; they push the envelope and don’t copy things that are already made. I think it is important to support our local economy. We are so concerned about the environment, why not start local? I could go on about all the amazing and talented people that live here in the Bay Area. I’m so honored to work with so many of them. I just want to help support them, help them make money and get the exposure they deserve. Local artists and designers care so much and are truly passionate.
What was your inspiration for opening Wonderland SF?
I curated an art show at 111 Minna gallery. Minna is my favorite place! I showed my favorite artists and the show had an amazing response which made me believe I can open my own place. I have relationships with a lot of Bay Area artists and designers and people in the fashion community. I felt it was important to have a place you can come and support local art and fashion, and this is exactly what you can do at Wonderland SF. We carry over 300 local designers, and we have new art exhibit every month.
What was it like to get Wonderland SF, a project you have been dreaming of for so long, off the ground?
I used all of my savings to open this place. I had no investors, and we did everything with very little money. Talk about a labor of love. Because of that it is a reflection of who I am, so you see a lot of our personal touches since we had to do our best with what we had. I think that the artists and designers who I collaborate with know how much I love what I do, and my customers see it when they are here. I couldn’t be more pleased with what we have created.
How would you describe your store’s style?
I honestly feel there is something for everyone. I’ve been in the industry for over 13 years supporting local artists and designers, and I work with over 5,000 Bay area artists and designers. I have 200 jewelry collections alone at Wonderland SF. The store has tons of t-shirts for men and women. We have all sorts of jewelry, ranging from edgy to classic, and big to little, you name it. We also have dresses, jackets, and bags in a variety of styles. We have a little bit of everything. If we don’t have it, we will get for you. I do not think anyone has as much variety as we have.
What new and exciting things are you working on at Wonderland?
Well, I just started my own jewelry line, which I’m still trying to figure out a name for, one that best represents me and my work. I am also working on a t-shirt and clothing line, made locally of course, and it’s really affordable. Also, one of the best things about having the gallery in the store is that I am able to work with new designers and artists every week. So many talented people want to come in here and show their art, and I am happy to have a home for them to do so.
About your jewelry line, can you tell me a little bit about it?
Well, I’ve been working on this particular line for about five months, but I’ve been designing for about 13 years, which started at the Chillin’ events. I’d describe the line as bold and edgy. It’s gaudy but not overdone, and it’s more modern. I started to see more and more people using the electro gold, and I just loved it! So, I found out where to get it and started to experiment with it. I was truly inspired by the crystals with the crown of silver dipped in gold, so I wanted to work that into my collection. As for the chains, earring and coins, they are my own ideas, my creations. Basically, I get to create and design which is what I love, it’s really exciting.
So, you have a new jewelry line you are working on and a clothing and t-shirt line coming soon. How do you manage life as a gallery/boutique owner, designer, curator, DJ, wife and mom?
I am so tired! I work every day at the store. I work on other projects through Chillin’ Productions and also must make sure my family gets the attention and love they need. I am exhausted, but I love what I do and I’m slightly obsessive compulsive, so I feel that no one else is going to care more than I do and work as hard at it as I do. At the end of the day I love my family, my store, Chillin’ Productions, DJ’ing, and l’m grateful that I am able to do what I love.
Lastly, Wonderland SF has been open for a little over a year now. How has it changed and what have you learned?
I’ve have learned a lot! Initially I was more close-minded about the aesthetic I wanted to present. Then I realized that if I wanted the business to survive, I had to be more open-minded to what people wanted, offer more variety in the inventory, mix it up, get to know my clientele and the neighborhood, and merchandising! Merchandising is so important! It’s all about being creative. I’m really happy with what Wonderland SF has become.
Stop by Wonderland this month to view the Majesty exhibit curated by Amandalynn. 2929 24th St @ Alabama.
Photography courtesy of Rachel Kemp
More independent fashion…