May 30, 2015

Snap Judgment: Prairie Schooner Cocktail Ring

The Prairie Schooner cocktail ring from Drella Jones

Our very-visual, (almost) chatter-free snap judgment of the day: The brass Covered Wagon Cocktail Ring, $11, perfect for the cowgirl or Oregon Trail fanatic in all of us. Inexpensive and fun, this Western-inspired piece is just one of many kitschy-cool items available from the etsy shop of San Francisco-based Drella Jones.

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

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

The Do List: San Francisco Fashion Events Oct. 17-23


Among the stylish San Francisco happenings to look forward to this week are multiple chances to indulge in tech and fashion, an enviable sample sale, a big bday party for a longtime local retailer, a vintage extravaganza and a live runway event across the Bay. Intrigued? You’ll find the details on the SF Indie Fashion Calendar.

  • For those interested in the intersection of style and technology, take your pic of events this week: on Tuesday, there’s an invite-only event with fashion app Pose at Heart in the Mission. We’re sure savvy style hounds will figure out a way to snag invites. Open to everyone, everywhere on Wednesday night is the next Posh Party from fashion app Poshmark. Come Thursday, you can network with those in the local tech and fashion industries during dueling events (or maybe attend both), thanks to the Digitally Chic Apps & Apps Meetup and the SFFMA’s Fashion Tech Meetup.
  • Thursday kicks off the Chaiken and Capone Sample Sale, a reason to duck out of work and dip into the New Montgomery location for deals on the local line’s 2011 samples in sizes two through six.
  • On Friday, celebrate a longtime local retailer’s two decades in San Francisco and latest venture with the Metier 20th Birthday & Web Shop Launch Party. We hear a slew of local style aficionados will be turning out for the shindig, which also includes gift bags to the first 50 partygoers and raffle prizes.
  • Two reasons to head east this week are well worth noting: A chance to scope local designers and artisans, a live runway show, open artists’ studios and food truck fare will be the draws during the latest installment of F3 at the Cottonmill on Friday night, while the Alameda Point Vintage Fashion Faire brings two days of vintage style and 50 vendors to the eastern island town.

You can find details on all of these events and more happening this week on the SF Indie Fashion Calendar.

Mind Behind the Design: Metal Smith’s Isabella Behravan

We’ve always been told that diamonds are a girl’s best friend. San Francisco-based designer Isabella Behravan is challenging this long-held belief with her innovative use of metals in her new jewelry line, Metal Smith. Give her a little time, and she may even disprove that whole diamond theory altogether.

After peeping her pieces during a recent visit to Ver Unica boutique in Hayes Valley, we were immediately intrigued and had to know more about this new local designer and her marvelous metals. Behravan is a born and bred San Franciscan raised in the heart of Russian Hill, and, like any seasoned city gal, she knows these city streets like the back of her hand.

After high school Behravan escaped to Upstate New York for a change of climate and scenery where she attended Bard College. But four years later, she soon found the City by the Bay calling her name.

Manager at Ver Unica for three years and counting, Behravan is in the midst of launching Metal Smith’s debut collection. It may be her first line, but she’s been at the jewelry designing game for quite some time. Behravan initially began creating pieces for herself after not finding jewelry she wanted to wear. Determined to sport pieces she was proud to call her own, Behravan immediately went to work.
Drawing inspiration from her surroundings, the elements, architecture and her love for the craftsmanship and impeccable detail in vintage clothing, Behravan carefully handcrafts each and every Metal Smith design. Her first collection boasts an array of earrings, rings, necklaces and bracelets with clean lines, subtle colors and bold shapes.
We sat down with Behravan to get the skinny on Metal Smith, dish about life in San Francisco and, of course, talk fashion.

What inspired you to start your own jewelry line?

I began making pieces that I wanted to wear because I wasn’t finding jewelry that felt natural and right for me out in the world. So I created pieces that I would want to wear everyday, not to go with an outfit but to make me feel a certain way. I quickly realized I wanted to share the jewelry I was creating.

What types of designs are you drawn to when creating your pieces?

I look to architecture, vintage pieces from my personal collection, and nature for inspiration. Shadows and empty space often play a big role in my design process.

What materials are your favorite to work with?

I love working with all types of metal. I love to see it do unexpected things and transform into something new. I’ve never worked with anything quite like it before; it’s amazing to create jewelry from something so strong with your hands.

When you’re not designing jewelry, what else do you do?

I hangout with my dog, Dirt. I also love going to thrift stores and antique shops to seek out hidden treasures.

What are your favorite shops or destinations in SF? Where are your go-to places to find independent, local apparel and jewelry designers?

My perfect day in San Francisco would start at Sight Glass Coffee, because it is such a beautiful place, where – if I could have a work bench in their loft – I could honestly work for hours upon hours a day. Then I’d take the N Judah to General Store, which has a beautifully curated collection of things. I’d finish the day with a walk with Dirt down to Union Made to check out their beautiful textiles. It is rare to see a shop with such perfectly selected pieces, particularly in men’s.

What is the one accessory you cannot live without?

My sunglasses. They’re circular frame 1960’s Christian Dior. I think that whoever owned them before me changed one of the lenses because they’re two different colors. One lens is a little more rosy and the other is a little more yellowy. When I wear them, anything that’s red looks totally psychedelic!

What is next for Metal Smith?! And I am very excited about stones right now. I have some pieces in mind that will involve new colored and textured stones that will complement the metal work I’ve been designing.

To check out Metal Smith’s first collection stop by Ver Unica boutique for the Metal Smith Trunk Show this Friday, October 14th from 6-9pm.

Photography courtesy of Metal Smith

More San Francisco jewelry designers….

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