May 23, 2015

Behind the Shop: DEMA

DEMA, 1038 Valencia St, San Francisco

In the heart of the Mission on Valencia Street between 21st and 22nd is a boutique called DEMA, which for nearly fourteen years has been keeping stylish Bay Area ladies gussied-up in modern women’s clothing with a vintage vibe.

Dema Grim, owner and namesake, designs and crafts her own clothing which she sells in the shop and can oftentimes be found in her workshop in the back of DEMA, where she creates patterns and cuts fabric. In addition to showcasing her own creations, Dema seeks out other designers with a unique voice that fit well with the atmosphere of the shop. Among them are clothing lines Vkoo, Cardigan, Subtle Luxury and Red 23.

Walking inside DEMA is like stepping out of a time machine into a very hip, punky-mod alternate dimension, with vintage posters, kitschy-cool furniture and racks and racks of colorful and boldly-patterned skirts, dresses, blouses and accessories. Plastic BearBricks stand on a shelf near the dressing room area dressed with Sex Pistols cover art (“They can be customized with whatever, Dema tells us, “I’ve seen Fendi ones…”) while neat stacks of folded sweaters lay atop a crescent-shaped table.

Tops by Cardigan in a plethora of patterns.

Avocado tiled floor and mod touches create a retro-feeling shopping experience.

Dema, busy in her workshop.

Sam + Lavi blouse, DEMA Lesley Skirt, and Tokyo Bay cross-body bag, photo borrowed from the DEMA web site.

We got a chance to interview Dema via email while she was getting some R&R up in the Russian River Valley. Read on for her thoughts about getting started in the biz, where she gets her inspirations and what looks she’s loving for fall.

Are you originally from the Bay Area? Do you believe your environment influences your style?

I was raised in Seattle, where I started my clothing line; moved to NYC in 1989 and enjoyed some success- selling to lots of small influential boutiques around the country as well as Barneys; moved to SF in 1994 with a lot of these shops, including Barneys, owing me a LOT of money and decided to open my own shop and stop doing wholesale in 1997. The one exception to this is M.A.C., with whom I’ve been collaborating for almost 20 years!

I believe that environment absolutely influences my style. In New York, I made much dressier, more tailored things. Suits, lots of black,etc. Being in San Francisco, and the Mission district in particular, has relaxed my style and made it more colorful. I really think that in the last 5 or 6 years I have found my voice, as it were, in regards to mixing color and pattern.

How did you get started in the fashion industry?

I did not go to a fashion school, rather I cobbled an education together by working in theater doing costumes, at alterations shops where I learned about fit and from a woman who taught pattern making in her living room. I did take a sewing class and a basic draping class at Seattle City College. I just bought the textbooks and taught myself!

Where do you look for inspiration?

I’m very inspired by the 60s and rock and roll. I was quite the mod punk in my teen years! The 60s was a time of new freedoms from restriction for young women. The mini skirts and racing around on scooters etc! But also, on a practical level, the fabrics I find really push me in a particular direction. I think my line reflects a modern interpretation of vintage classics done in unexpected patterns or textures.

Who is your typical client? If you could dress any person, celebrity or not, living or dead, who would it be?

My typical client is me! 35-45, wanting to still look cool and relevant but also age appropriate.

I have a real soft spot for Jean Seberg. She was so perfectly gamine. My perfect blend of tomboy and girly. I live in skinny jeans and Keds and had just the same short haircut for a lot of my life and have always admired the girls who race around town on their scooters. I may stray into other eras, but I always come back to this sort of girl in my head.

What is your favorite trend for Fall?

Having said that, my favorite Fall trend is turning out to be the midi-skirt. I’ve done a great below the knee 4-gored skirt with a sort of 40′s flip to it. Very flattering to lots of figures and a very fresh length! This is turning out to be a very popular skirt for Fall. I’ve also done a very classic late 50′s dress with a little cap sleeve, pleated neckline and fitted skirt that looks great on almost everyone and works well in many different fabrics from daytime wools to silky evening prints.

Where do you like to shop in the city?

I don’t shop for clothes too much around town. I have a hard time buying anything I could make! But shoes and sweaters are definitely allowed: Gimme Shoes, Rabat, Bulo, Shoe Biz, etc.

DEMA has been in the Mission for nearly 14 years — what kind of changes have you noticed? Has the clientele and store changed in that time?

Boy have I seen a lot of changes in the neighborhood. I opened in 1997, and there was very little on Valencia besides used clothing and furniture shops. Then came the DotCom years, and I was very successful…When the bubble burst it was quite an eye-opener. Then things stabilized for a bit, and then this current recession started three years ago! I’ve seen so many shops come and go. I worked very hard to keep American Apparel off of Valencia even though we had so many empty storefronts. I just knew it would change the “indie” attitude of the neighborhood. And now almost every storefront is filled with interesting retail concept shops or great restaurants. For a while there were tons of indie clothing design places as well, although we lost a few to the recession. I would love for this neighborhood to be known as the place to come for small production clothing shops.

What are your goals for the future of DEMA?

I imagine DEMA to remain a fairly small enterprise. I’m pretty happy with my little design incubator and with the collaborations with MAC (Modern Appealing Clothing). I’m certainly busy enough! I would love to get something going besides my blog so my fans across the country could buy DEMA online.

If you didn’t have to work, where would you be right now?

When I’m not working, you’ll find me either poking around Europe or in my garden wrangling the roses or walking my three dogs around Bernal Heights!

Sex Pistols BearBricks give an edgy sense of fun.

Fabrics waiting to be turned into DEMA's next creations

Faux leather handbags by co-lab on display.

Kitschy-cool is the vibe of DEMA.

Cute decorations inside Dema's workshop

DEMA is celebrating its 14th year on Valencia, so don’t forget to stop in and say “Happy Birthday!”

Photography courtesy of Alexandra Naughton

More indie-friendly San Francisco shops

Alexandra is a San Francisco writer with a passion for style and creativity. You can find her on Twitter @theTsaritsa

We Came, We Saw, We Shopped: Indie Mart

Design, music, free hugs, sunshine, and a do-it-yourself attitude were on display at Thee Parkside in Potrero Hill during Sunday’s Indie Mart, where local designers show off wares ranging from to tiny top hats to hardcore harnesses for Bay Area shoppers, all while supporting the Kelly Malone Cancer Fund (all donations went to the fund).

Indie designers, vintage scourers, artists, screenprinters, DJs, bands, fresh cupcakes, cheap beer and five dollar tee-shirts were all to be found at the latest Indie Mart, along with costumed revelers on their way to the Burning Man Decompression party. The weather was lovely, and everyone seemed happy to be out of doors after all the unseasonal rain we’ve had recently.

A row of bikes created a fence outside the Indie Mart entrance.

A wooden rack of recycled clothing at the One-Of-A-Kind booth.

Skull earrings, geometric necklaces and vintage apparel by Alexandria Vaun

Accessories occupy a vintage suitcase courtesy of Resurrect Designs

Making a statement with Le Petit Hats

Vintage Vantage's closeout sale, with five dollar tees and free hugs

Handmade jewelry and keychains by Big Things

Tees silk screened by hand from Mary Weather.

San Francisco-inspired designs on tees by Amos Goldbaum

Leather harness and leather cuffs by Skins On Skins.

"Magic is Real" necklaces and other accessories from Alchemilla by Jen Lorang

Leather bags and goods adorned with automobile details from Black Heart Industries

In the spirit of Halloween, face masks by One-Of-A-Kind

Rooster necklace by Rock Candy Jewelry Design

More San Francisco shopping

Photography courtesy of Alexandra Naughton

Alexandra is a San Francisco writer with a passion for style and creativity. You can find her on Twitter @theTsaritsa

Party Seen: Prolific 54 Apparel Launch

A male model looks cool in a blue Fillmore Windbreaker, South of Market Dress Shirt and plaid tie.

A line wrapped around the block at Horizon Ultra Lounge in North Beach on Saturday night for the official launch of San Francisco-based men’s clothing line Prolific 54 Apparel, a company that offers stylish (yet affordable) clothing for sophistication-seeking men.

A female model sporting the Laurel Heights Long Sleeve Plaid Shirt and little else.

“We love our Gucci loafers, but we also love our Vans. That’s what makes it so important for us to have our wardrobe be versatile enough,” says Prolific 54 co-founder John Wang.

Prolific 54 Apparel was started by friends John Wang, Jonathan Tam, Alvin Chan and Nick Pham, all of whom say they share a passion for style and design. Inspired by San Francisco and the fast-paced “work hard, play hard” lifestyle of city dwellers, the designers searched high and low to find just the right fabrics to make socially-responsible clothing that guys really want to wear.

“All of our clothes in various combinations could be would be worn for a wide variety of occasions,” Wang says of the label’s style. “They were designed for the young professional in mind. For instance, if one of our customers wanted to wear our our Fillmore jacket to work, the hood could be rolled into the collar and worn over a dress shirt with one of our ties, and one of our white crew necks as an under shirt. Once they were off work, meeting a few buddies at their favorite bar, they could easily throw on a snap back cap, take off the dress shirt and tie, roll out the hood and wear it with our white crew neck. This look instantly goes from work to play within a couple of seconds.”

The South of Market Dress Shirt meets the Tenderloin Jacket.

For the launch event, the velvet ropes of Studio 54 came to mind as men and women stood dressed to the nines outside, waiting to get the party started. Inside, DJs A-Plus and B-Simple were warming up the atmosphere with fun early-90s club jams and Top 40 hits while event-goers sipped champagne in exclusive VIP booths.

Hey, a little Jersey-minded style has its place, as with the Marina Short Sleeve Plaid Shirt shown here.

The fashion show was an exciting mix of modern shapes and patterns, with looks ranging from ultra-light windbreakers to raw denim and colorful plaid button-up shirts. Male models strutted on the makeshift catwalk that coursed through the club and were joined by lingerie-clad female models wearing Prolific 54 button downs and jackets and not much else. Bright colors, sharp patterns, partial nudity, slick jackets, fun neckties, classic button-ups, big Jersey-style hair and feather earrings all added up to create an exciting show in line with the Saturday night club vibe.

More San Francisco men’s fashion

Photography courtesy of Mike Borja

Alexandra is a San Francisco writer with a passion for style and creativity. You can find her on Twitter @theTsaritsa

We Came, We Saw, We Shopped: Capsule Design Festival

Sunshine, music, and a fashionable spirit filled the air of Hayes Valley on Sunday for the Capsule Design Festival outdoor market, featuring 130 independent and local designers. Thanks to the gorgeous and warm late-summer day, seemingly everyone in the neighborhood was out and about to partake in the fun.

Clothing for men, women, children and pets dominated the majority of the booths, although there were quite a few vendors selling jewelry, accessories, handmade paper products and goods for the home.

The defining factor? Participating sellers are chosen based on their originality in design and sustainability. Below, highlights from the event:

Local musicians convene for park side melody-making.

Danielle "the dressmaker" Pettee poses with her designs.

Colorful collars for our furry friends by Usagi Team

Eco Fashions Recycled Candy Wrappers purses

Pretty vintage-inspired dress by Effie's Heart

"Good grammar is sexy" and other Studio Nico goodies at The Workshop's booth

Hayes street throw pillow by Casa Murriguez

The sun was out and the sky was exceptionally clear in Hayes Valley on Sunday.

Disguise kit for kids at the Kira booth

Kiu Designs' custom made handbags

Free mustache photos, courtesy of Scoutmob

One-of-a-kind pins, totes, accessories and crafts by Random Nicole

Polka-dots and Asian-inspired dresses by Rebe

Brightly-hued socks from Rockn Socks

Ring holder made from vintage teacups by Who Made It

Fun and funny greeting cards by The Workshop

Photography courtesy of Alexandra Naughton

More San Francisco shopping

Alexandra is a San Francisco writer with a passion for style and creativity. You can find her on Twitter @theTsaritsa


Behind the Shop: Wonderland SF

Irene Hernandez-Feiks, Wonderland SF

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.

Pieces from Hernandez-Feiks' new, yet-to-be-named jewelry line

More pieces from the new line

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.

Wonderland stocks apparel and accessories from belt buckles to heels and handbags -- all by local designers

In back, an art gallery features new work from local talent

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