May 23, 2015

Buckle Up: Chrome Customs Messenger Bags

You can now snag your own custom-designed messenger bag from Chrome, the local maker of messenger bags you’ll recognize by their signature seatbelt buckle shoulder straps. New color options and a variety of trims and materials are available for customizing the Mini-metro ($120) and Citizen ($140) models, both made in the company’s SoMa store.

So just how choose-y can you get? In-store sewing expert Michael Pablo will make your bag on-site using your picks from a materials list that includes weatherproof Cordura shell fabric in 11 color options (some limited and seasonal), seven truck tarp liner colors, four different velcros, two tape trims, limited glitter vinyl, a vintage patchwall and a choice of either black or chrome hardware for the buckle. You can also mix the black and chrome to make one contrasting buckle. Chrome also welcomes open dialogue with its sewing experts, “that could lead to more, imagination pending,” says Chrome public relations representative Corinne Avganim.

How fast will you get your bag? Expect bags to be ready in a week, if not sooner. “If they come in on a day where Michael [Pablo] is fairly free, they may be able to get their bag same day,” Avinnem says.

As for what Chrome expects customers to gain from the experience, it’s about more than getting a made-for-you bag. Company President Steve McCallion likens this service to the Jamie Oliver Project from the well known chef, whose mission not only teaches people how to cook, but also gives them an understanding of where food comes from.  Translating that to Chrome customs, McCallion says it’s about giving people an appreciation for building and the way their product is made.

Ready to check it out? Head to Chrome, 580 4th St (at Harrison).

Chrome Customs directions board

Chrome Customs design station

Chrome Customs design station

Chrome Customs Launch Event

Photograph 1 courtesy Chrome SF.  Photographs 2-5 courtesy Kizza Chadiha.

Lots of Baggage: San Francisco Messenger Bags

Standard Commuter Bag by Rickshaw

Bicycling in San Francisco has increased by over 50 percent since 2006, so it’s no wonder that the quintessential urban cycling accessory – the messenger bag – has increased in popularity as well. An urban fashion trend to some and necessity to others, the messenger bag is now a staple within the cycling community and among non-cyclists alike. Read on to find one that’s just your style.

Known for their extreme versatility, messenger bags are not only practical, but have other perks as well: most of those made by local companies embrace the spirit of the many alternative transportation-loving, eco-conscious, sustainably-minded Bay Area consumers who wear them. For example, Rickshaw produces custom bags onsite in San Francisco’s Dog Patch neighborhood and has developed a process that produces zero manufacturing waste. We suggest you try out the label’s recycled polyester: it’s waterproof, eco-friendly and locally made (you can even watch them make it).

Each company below has a different style to fit your needs. Many offer custom designs. Check them out online or in various stores throughout the Bay Area:

Here are San Francisco messenger bags sources worth checking out:

Rolltop Bag by Freight Baggage

The Shed by Mission Workshop

Citizen Buckle Bag by Chrome

Commute 2.0 by Timbuk2

Photography courtesy of individual companies

Biker Chic: Chrome Gets Into Ladies’ Pants


If a jealous woman is a dangerous thing, then at least one local company is making the City streets safer this month.

After more than 14 years of outfitting urban bike messengers, skaters, cyclists and just plain ‘ole regular dudes seeking functional gear with street-style appeal in its locally-designed line of men’s apparel, messenger bags and — most recently — footwear, Chrome has launched its first piece for the ladies.

Dubbed the Vanya, the riding knicker is as functional for cycling as it is for hiking, walking, lounging around in the park or hitting up the bar for afternoon beers.

“The idea behind the women’s line is functional elegance, a city urban look, that kind of performance you need, but you still have that cool kind of urban look to it,” Chrome’s Rob Reedy tells us.

Made of four-way stretch fabric, the pants feature a wide two-button waistband and four pockets for stowing gear.

We recently had a chance to test walk, ride and drive a pair, and we were immediate fans of the fabric’s simultaneously snug, yet comfortable and forgiving fit (sizes run a bit small, we usually wear a size 8 and feel perfect in a Vanya large). The wide waistband can accommodate a thick belt, but doesn’t cut into our delicate paunches when we sit or lean over. Deep pockets, including one with a Velcro flap and one with a zipper, keep our gear secure even while we move, and the muted gray color goes with just about everything. But perhaps our favorite part, and pardon us for getting personal, is the super-soft, chub-rub fighting fabric lining the crotch and inner thigh. Because we much prefer chafing when it involves a dish.

Stay tuned for more gal gear in the coming months. We hear a windbreaker is in the works.



Sweet San Francisco Soles: 5 Bay Area Shoe Designers

In our ongoing quest for apparel and accessories from independent San Francisco designers, we’ve found that footwear is among the more challenging categories to hunt down within Bay Area bounds. But that doesn’t mean local footwear companies don’t exist. Here are five local footwear lines well-worth stepping out in:

Martha Davis: Designed by Davis in Hayes Valley, this luxe local line launcher earlier this year features boots, wedges, booties and heels that mix sleek silhouettes with sculptural details and the occasional raw edge. Made in the same Italian factory that produces footwear for Chanel and Chloe, the shoes ($270-$750) in this line don’t come cheap, but thankfully boast super-soft leather construction and heel heights made for pounding the pavement on city streets.


Glory Chen: The rounded toes and curvaceous silhouettes of this local footwear company’s shoes never fail to grab our attention when we stroll past the Maiden Lane storefront. We like to think of the pumps, heels and flats as classics with a mod-inspired twist.


Chrome: Here’s one for the fellas. The newly-launched (as in last week) line of men’s shoes from this longtime local maker of bike-friendly bags and accessories is a tough as they come and well-priced ($70-$90) to boot. We eagerly await the arrival of the company’s apparel for women, which we hear is set to debut in the coming weeks.


Anyi Lu: Best known for their foot-conforming fit and flexible styling, offerings from the current collection of this Marin-based designer range from professionally-polished silhouettes to weekend-friendly flats.


Form and Fauna: Using organic and earth-conscious materials whenever possible, this Marin-based footwear line is committed to sustainable production techniques and eco-friendly practices. These chic shoes are known for their comfy fit and wearability. Heels of reclaimed wood, biodegradable synthetic uppers and organic cotton details are a welcome bonus.