May 24, 2015

Will San Francisco Millinery Die? That May Be Up to You.

(Photo: Jude Mooney,

House of Nines Design is an independent, high-end hat design business by San Francisco’s Tricia Roush and one of the many local small businesses in the running for the Chase/Living Social Mission: Small Business program, whose voting ends June 30. Roush hopes to keep San Francisco millinery alive and well by opening a House of Nines Design shop in San Francisco. Like many local designers, she’s hoping for your vote to get her project off the ground.

Here’s the backstory: Over the past few years, hats have made a big splash in the fashion world. Who can forget Princess Eugenie’s blush colored Philip Treacy 3-D bow headpiece at the Royal Wedding? An extended global tour of Stephen Jones‘ anthology exhibition shows how hats have recaptured the fashion spotlight. Locally, many of Jean Paul Gaultier’s headpieces are on display at the de Young Museum. But even with so much attention on hats and milliners these days, San Francisco’s designer hat shops are dwindling. In early 2012, there were only four high-end local designer hat shops in the City. One of them is now gone, and Roush tells us that two others are currently preparing to close. Roush hopes to fill the local hat void by opening a House of Nine Design shop.

House of Nines Design sells foxy headwear throughout the country, online and by appointment. Described as “fancy hats for the fearless,” Roush’s individually-shaped, handmade designs are blend the artistic, whimsical and playful. She mixes modern and traditional techniques while using materials such as ribbon sourced from other small businesses and rare vintage veiling. The hats also include handcrafted trims made by Roush.

Roush designs three ready-to-wear collections per year (spring/summer, fall/winter, and bridal) along with custom pieces upon request. Prices range from $200-$1000. You’ll find additional shots of her work online in her etsy shop. Check out the gorgeous hats on her.

But back to the grant. Chase and Living Social have teamed up to offer 12 $250K grants to small businesses through Mission: Small Business. You may have heard of the program, as many local designers and small businesses are vying for the grants. The application process is intense, requiring extensive essays and a thorough business plan. Applicants also need at least 250 votes from the public by June 30 to be considered. The winners will be announced on September 15. Find out more information on the House of Nines Design blog, including how to vote for Roush or others in the running.

(Photo: John Martinko,

(Photo: Cassandra Ladru Photography,

More San Francisco designers




Sneak Peek: Vanessa Gade’s New Forme Collection

San Francisco jewelry designer Vanessa Gade‘s new Forme Collection launched over the weekend at L.A.’s Dwell on Design exhibition. Ushering in more of Gade’s streamlined, architectural approach to jewelry, the new pieces diverge from her past work with perfect circles and rectangles to focus on irregular geometric shapes in sterling silver, oxidized silver and 14K gold.

The collection ($75-$350) won’t be available for purchase until July, but Gade is offering a sneak peek of her latest necklaces, bracelets, earrings and rings on her web site. Like her previous collections, her current pieces channel undercurrents of Japanese and Scandinavian design. The presence of delicate chains in many pieces adds complexity to the spare shapes. With their clean lines and modern aesthetic, Gade’s jewelry is understated in a way that makes it easy to where everyday, but is, upon closer inspection, a wearable work of art.

More San Francisco jewelery designers

Bohemian Beauty: Nieves Rathbun’s By Nieves Line

Growing up in a nomadic lifestyle led by parents who traveled across the West using pack donkeys laid the groundwork for Nieves Rathbun‘s organic body care line, By Nieves. Exposure to alternative remedies through her travels and exploration from a young age, she went on to combine her knowledge into a line of products for the face, body and hair. Read on to discover more about this Oakland expert in naturally-crafted beauty.

A young Neives Rathbun in Sheridan, Oregon, 1980

Another shot of Nieves as a young girl

Nieves and her donkey Betsy.

Behind the scenes of By Nieves products.

Today Nieves produces her By Nieves body and skincare line by hand using natural ingredients. (Photo: Gwen Harlow)

How did growing up with such a unique lifestyle influence your decision to get into skincare and body products? Growing up in the wilderness and in the counterculture instilled a sense of interdependence and an awareness of immediate consequence. It’s hard to ignore nature when you’re surrounded by it. I think this leads to a feeling of responsibility and makes me question how a product or ingredient is made and what does it affect after we wash it down the drain. Then as a career choice, even though I’m attracted to herbal medicine and nutrition, I’m enamored with glamorous fancy things so I gravitated to skincare and perfuming.

After being in the skincare industry for a while, I started wondering there weren’t more simple and lovely products out there and thought why doesn’t some one just put together this and this and that it would be so great? So I mixed up some things, loved them and the rest is history (in the making).

Tell us a little about your childhood. How were you able to travel and move around so much? I was raised by my father, who is an intellectual hippie that renounced materialism to a large degree. We were able to survive on very modest means, which meant he didn’t have to actually make a lot of money. When he did, it was mostly with forestry work, tree planting, trail maintenance and stuff like that.

What makes By Nieves skincare differ from other skin care lines? I only use very natural ingredients…that’s why you don’t see any lotions, serums or cleansers that would require emulsifiers, surfactants and preservatives. I think what sets By Nieves apart is that I use simple recognizable, effective ingredients and I serve them up with sassy sincerity and classic packaging. Honestly, I’m not the only one doing this and that’s great. I’d love it if there were lots and lots of successful artisan skincare companies rather than just a few huge companies (oops my hippie roots are showing!)

What are your most popular products? I developed each of my five products to fill a particular need in my routine, so I can’t live without any of them. But if I had to choose one, it’d be the C Perfect Skin…I play around with other products sometimes (‘cuz I love skincare stuff), but nothing quite does it for me like the good old C Perfect Skin. Oh and it is the number one seller, too.

After such extensive travels, where did you decide to settle down? I’m located in Oakland on what some people call the Oakland Riviera, a funky little artist enclave on 5th Ave. I’m in the process of moving some of my business to Petrolia, California on the Lost Coast.  My husband grew up there, and it’s time to help his aging mama and let our boy Jasper run wild in the hills. I’ve been longing to get back to the woods…back to my remote country roots. I will maintain an Oakland office and continue to produce some products here. I will continue to spend plenty of time in the Bay Area to do events, stay in touch with clients and  keep my finger on the pulse of the big City life.

Where can we find By Nieves products? You can find By Nieves at a bunch of awesome independent boutiques in the Bay Area and you can order online at

Photos courtesy of Nieves Rathbun

More Bay Area beauty…

Need Local Flavor? Try Jewelry by Salty Fox

The Lucy earrings, $64, pair classic gold hoops with rock chic leather triangles.

The Ella earrings, $64, are hung with sparkling pyrite nuggets.

The Sierra earrings, $56, combine vintage chain, hematite and spikes.

The Cleo necklace, $82, features pyrite cubes and recycled leather.

We’re big fans of locally-made jewelry that packs a unique flavor, so you can imagine we were taken with the adornments of San Francisco designer Megan Stacy and her Salty Fox line. Using metals, recycled leather and chains, the former Lela Rose intern aims to make necklaces, earrings and bracelets with sophisticated edge and affordable prices.

Read on for more about this local designer and her current collections.

Tells us a little about your line. How did you get your start? I launched my line a year ago with the aim to make affordable handmade jewelry that is both casual and refined. I had been working with a lot of silver and metalsmithing techniques in the past and wanted to do a line that was more accessible and less labor and cost intensive.  I also have a background in clothing and textile design and interned with Lela Rose in New York, but definitely feel really excited about working with metal and accessories now.

What are your favorite materials to work with right now? I like to use a lot of chain and stones that are both sleek and raw. I like everything to be clean and sophisticated, but not too sweet. I also use a lot of vintage materials and a bit of leather that is repurposed from vintage clothing.

Where can we find your work in San Francisco? Salty Fox can be found at Candystore Collective, Eden & Eden, Curator, Blues Jean Bar, Resident Artist Gallery, and Wonderland SF.  I also sell online. I tend to have one-off pieces at fairs like this and most pieces are discounted, so it is always good to come by shows like this if you are a fan. I will also be at all of the SF Indie Marts this summer at Thee Parkside.

Pretty Up: Scorpion Sisters’ Upcycled Jewelry & Home Designs

Born and bred San Franciscan Michelle Threadgould and her aunt Margarita Lopez come together as the beautiful minds behind local furniture and jewelry line Scorpion Sisters. Inspired by imperfection, the Scorpion Sisters give new life to reclaimed materials by turning them into jewelry, art and furniture designs that are fast becoming a must-haves among Bay Area fans of upcycled luxuries.

Star shaped vintage rhinestone pin necklace, $180.

Chevron rhinestone pin necklace, $115

Antique pin necklace featuring chains and leatherwork, $115.

Designer Michelle Threadgould wearing her own designs as she displays a piece she recently created.

What inspired you to start Scorpion Sisters?

I come from a costume design background. Dreaming up new worlds through design is what I love. Margarita was a visual merchandiser and designed window displays for twenty five years. The two of us like to tell stories through our designs.

We were looking for creative alternatives to our day jobs, and one evening, walking along Embarcadero, we discussed what it would be like to run our own business. My aunt loves live edge wood, and had once made a table out of a beautiful piece that she found at the flea market. So we began going to flea markets, salvage yards and eco-sourced lumber yards and making tables.

Shortly thereafter, I remembered that my aunt used to make beautiful pieces of jewelry as a hobby, and the two of us took the same idea of using reclaimed and upcycled materials as our base. We liked the idea of making jewelry that was one-of-a-kind and asymmetrical as a way to express individuality and to give a special touch to our designs.

You often use recycled materials. Can you let us in on where you find them?

Sixty percent of our materials are reclaimed or eco-sourced. We often find vintage or broken pieces of jewelry at flea markets, thrift stores and estates sales and then we redesign the jewelry, adding crystals, feathers, African beads or whatever new materials inspire us.

What makes your brand and aesthetic distinct and unique?

Both of us are inspired by imperfect things. We like the idea of giving an old item new life and restoring its original beauty. But we do more than that. We give our jewelry an artistic and modern edge with a handmade feel.

This living room setting features the Fleur de Lys-shaped English Walnut Table made of live-edge wood and reclaimed metal legs.

The sisters successfully incorporate unconventional elements into their furniture. Featured is a white wooden plank table with leather stitching.

Obsessed with the Scorpion Sisters yet? Check out their full collection online at To purchase jewelry, visit their etsy shop.

Photography courtesy  of  Scorpion Sisters

More local designers