May 25, 2015

Knit Wits: Scott Ian McFarland’s Cozy Collection

Part of San Francisco Fashion Week, the cozy knits of local designer and AAU alum Scott Ian McFarland paired easygoing wearability with eye-catching patterns and varied textures. Our contributing photographer Jennymay Villarete snapped a few choice looks from the cozy collection during the designer’s Fashion Week preview in SoMa last week.

Below, a few of our favorite shots. Want more? View the entire album on Facebook.

Photography by Jennymay Villarete

What’s New in Old Oakland’s Popuphood

In the heart of Old Oakland, it’s time for a catch up session on the latest with Popuphood. New retailers Umamimart and McMullen recently joined the mix of independent shops, and the organization is offering other interested independent retailers an opportunity to apply to the expanding project through its web site. Read on for the details.

Here’s the lowdown: with the rise in popularity of pop-up retail, the idea of a mini neighborhood inspired by the concept presented a unique opportunity for a group of lucky retailers last fall.

Popuphood, an urban revitalization project and small business incubator, aims to draw foot traffic to the heart of Old Oakland while offering local artisans and merchants the opportunity to open temporary shops to present their work to the public.

When Popuphood debuted this past December, creators Alfonso Dominguez and Sarah Filley made it possible for a handful of independent retailers to try out the newly renovated retail spaces of Old Oakland for six months – completely rent-free. Opportunities to sign long term leases after the trial period made the opportunity even sweeter, and five out of eight retailers ended up signing leases. There were benefits to the surrounding community, as well. Along with bringing new energy to the streets, the shops are easily accessible via public transportation and BART, and are only a few short blocks from a handful of restaurants and bars.

The project has plans to expand to more neighborhoods and communities in the future and has created an online platform for interested businesses to get in touch: independent retailers interested in joining the eclectic mix of talent can apply online for their opportunity to connect with Old Oakland – or wherever the next popuphood lands.

More San Francisco fashion news…


More Eco-Friendly Jeffrey Campbell For Convert Shoes Coming in ’12

Environmentally-conscious East Bay fashion staple Convert has followed its debut collaboration from last spring with L.A.-based Jeffrey Campbell with a new line of eco-friendly shoes ready to hit the streets early next year. The funky, but earth-friendly result is once again a hip, vegan and sustainable collection of styles available exclusively at the Berkeley boutique.

Check out some of our favorite pairs from the new collection below.

Wynette Boot with buckle detail (available January 2012)

All Caps red Hopi print wedge (available January 2012)

Martini black and white flat (now available)

Glide wedge (available now)

99 Tie wedge (available January 2012)

To see more styles (including a vegan version of the famous Lita shoe) or to pre-order a pair or two, visit the Convert website.

More San Francisco local designers


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

Behind the Shop: Babette Pinsky

Owner and designer Babette Pinsky

Veteran fashion designer Babette Pinsky has made quite the name for herself in San Francisco and beyond since launching her line in 1968 and becoming known for the array of artfully-crafted pleated coats and polished, yet relaxed separates available in her Babette boutiques. Now her success is going beyond the style realm. Named by The San Francisco Business Times as one of the 100 Top Women Owned Businesses in the Bay Area this year, Pinsky has a new book out – and lots to say about the fashion industry. Read on for our recent chat with this San Francisco entrepreneur.

A graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York where she majored in coats and suits, Pinsky has made it a point not to follow popular trends, but instead to opt for wearable women’s pieces featuring Babette’s signature pleats. Her formula has proven such a success that Babette now has 8 stores open nationwide in 7 different states, though she continues to produce her line in her expansive West Oakland factory. San Franciscans can view her collections at her Sutter Street boutique in downtown San Francisco.

Now, after 40+ years in the fashion biz, Pinsky recently self-published her book, Babette – Designing a Vision, and was tapped as one of the 100 Top Women Owned Businesses in the Bay Area by The San Francisco Business Times.

Pinsky took a break from her hectic day-to-day to give us the scoop on how Babette Inc. came to be, her journey to get where she is today, her love of art and what every San Francisco woman should have in her closet.

Babette store, on Sutter St in downtown San Francisco

Store interior

Pieces from Babette Fall 2011 Collection

Pieces from Babette Fall 2011 Collection

How did you get your start in the fashion industry?

I always wanted to work fashion. It was the only thing ever wanted to do, so it was an easy and obvious decision. I attended the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, and after school got one job after another and even worked in Europe for a while. I eventually came to the West Coast and got a real fashion job as a coat designer, which was what I specialized in at FIT. I worked for four years designing coats and square dance dresses, which was what my boss and the owner designed. Then, in 1968 I opened my own store and started my own line.

 How does it feel to be a part of the 100 Top Women Owned Businesses in the Bay Area? Can you tell us a little bit about the journey to get here?

Well, great, of course. There is no question about that. Although I never really thought of myself as a women-owned business. I just went into business because it was I what I wanted to do. I worked hard at it, and it continued to evolve and I just did it and didn’t think anything of it. As I went along I did notice certain advantages to being a woman that have helped Babette evolve into what I have now, such as people are willing to buy from you first. I am really proud of what I have created.

 What kind of woman wears items from Babette? Can you describe her?

We always keep her in mind. She is about 45-years-old, works and has a family. She loves to travel for work and for pleasure. She is probably a professional woman and is married to another professional, successful person. She enjoys going to art museums, the movies and dinners as forms of entertainment. She is generally in the middle to upper income bracket. She is of an average figure, typically size 8-10, not too tall and not too short. She is definitely someone who has a little bit of an artistic bent and is not afraid of making a statement. She is simple, but quite artistic. She is not a wallflower and is not afraid of being seen and being complimented on her clothes.

What are you inspired by when creating pieces for your line? Do you look to anything in particular for inspiration?

Design is an evolutionary process….For me part of the process of design as it changes and evolves is maintaining a sense of style but changing things so that they are new and different. With each new collection I draw inspiration from previous collections, but I like to change, recreate and reinvent with color direction, texture, theme and create something else that is completely altogether new on top of it.

What are your favorite fabrics to work with?

That is an ever changing thing for me right now. I am currently very interested in working with soft, drapey and liquidy fabrics. Not chiffony, but fabrics that are slow when you move, that almost create a feeling of water. That is what I am interested now, but that doesn’t mean I will be tomorrow.

When you’re not designing and creating, what else do you do?

I am very much like the woman I describe who wears my clothing. There is a big emphasis on art in my life. I enjoy art exhibits and art galleries. My husband and I collect art and, wherever we travel, to we like to see what is going on in the local art scene and look for special pieces to add to our collection. That is usually what gets us most excited, other than our work. And of course, going to dinner, spending time with friends and going to the movies.

How would you describe the Babette aesthetic? 

As far as the stores, the collection and the advertising, it all goes together. We try to keep the stores very simple and let the clothes tell the story….In my displays, I almost always don’t add accessories. I really like the clothes to speak for themselves. In my collections, I use a lot of texture and pleating.

What are three things every San Francisco woman should have in her closet right now?

A pair of great jeans are a must. As far as from my own collection, I think a classic pleated white shirt is a great staple, as well as some kind of fabulous and interesting coat or jacket.  Not a suit jacket, but a coat or jacket that has color, detail and texture. One that is versatile and can go over jeans, black pants, just about anything.

What new and exciting things are you working on at Babette?

Right now I am working on next Fall 2012 collection, which will come about about a year from now. That is really where my mind is at. As far as the business side of things, we are in a sort of holding pattern, at a cross roads in growth. It is reflective time, which feels really good.

Photography courtesy of Babette

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