December 22, 2014

Oh My Guinness: gr.dano Fall/Winter ’12

A brand new reason to look forward to the latter half of the year came this week when much-loved independent San Francisco fashion label gr.dano dropped shots of its latest collection on us. With the gr.dano Fall/Winter ’12 collection, prepare for the same sophisticated draping and architectural details designers Jill Giordano and Brian Scheyer are known for, but with a youthful edge and pops of color that provide a refreshing departure from their previous work. The inspiration? The iconic Daphne Guinness.

Pieces ranging from work-appropriate pants and skirts to edgier pieces with cut-out shoulders aim to channel the “unique boldness, agelessness, glamour and confidence” Guinness is known for, Giordano and Scheyer say, while sticking to the wearable, predominately neutral-hued roots of the brand. Among our favorite are a white, belted jacket with futuristic undertones, a long belted dress with long sleeves and a dramatic v-neck and an asymmetrical top with a drapey neckline.

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Mikimoiselle.com: SF’s New French & Japanese Style Source

Flora skirt

Are you a French fashion fanatic but can’t seem to find the time or money to book a flight, fly 5,000+ miles and scour the cobblestone streets of Paris? Mais pas pleurer! Newly launched, San Francisco-based online boutique Mikimoiselle is supplying stateside French fashion lovers with a well-edited shop featuring exclusive and hard-to-find independent designers hailing from France and Japan.

Raised in a bi-cultural home (her mother is Japanese and her father is American), founder and self-proclaimed Francophile Miki Carlton grew up in Japan and dreamed of working cross-culturally, and now she’s doing just that, searching far and wide to find the most unique boutiques in some of the best fashion cities in the world and curate them in one online shop.

The site name is a tribute to Carlton’s love all things French-Japanese fusion which combines the French “mademoiselle,” the French word for “miss” or “lady,” and Carlton’s first name, Miki.

To keep the merchandise original and fresh, Carlton takes several buying trips per year, with new deliveries arriving monthly and seasonally. The site currently features Fall/Winter 2011 designs by Antoine & Lili, Madeva, TURBO:wear, Pas Touch Douce, Lorina Balteanu and, coming soon, Un Jour Un Sac.

Volga hat & jacket

Volga hat

Shop owner, Miki Carlton

We sat down with Carlton for a brief chat about the launch, what she’s wearing right now, what she’s up to in 2012.

Your site just launched, how does it feel?

Very exciting! It’s taken about a year and half to get to the site launch, and it feels really good to have reached this milestone. Now I’ve entered into the next phase and my focus has radically shifted from “site launch” to “marketing, branding and sales.” The initial feedback has been very positive, which I am both humbled and motivated by.

Can you tell me a little bit about the journey to get here?

It’s been a very organic process, from the initial inspiration to sourcing brands to launching the web site. Five years ago, if someone told me I’d be running my own online clothing boutique, I wouldn’t have believed them. But I just followed my instincts, my love of fashion and bringing cultures together, and voila! Here I am. Of course there was a steep learning curve around starting a business, import/export issues, photography, ecommerce, taxes, etc., but have loved building something truly from scratch as well as a whole new community of designers, artists, (web) developers, photographers and other boutique owners.

Your online boutique focuses on artisans and small designers specifically from Japan and France. What is it that draws you to Japanese and French fashion? 

I grew up in Japan, and know that culturally, the French and Japanese have a lot more in common than one would think. Aside from the pride they both have in their country’s history, the French and Japanese both love art, fashion, food, and natural beauty. Many years ago when I first visited Europe, I was immediately struck by how much more similar Europe was (than the U.S.) to Japan. When it comes to fashion, the attention to detail you find in clothing and jewelry coming out of Japan and France is amazing, whether it’s the fabric, stitching, pattern or buttons. Take hosiery for example. While in the U.S. it can be an afterthought, in France and Japan, you can find tons of great hosiery both in department stores and stand-alone boutiques that are works of art!

What will we catch you wearing this season?  

It’s coat and hat season, and I love wearing my array of them — I love every single one I have and have collected them from near and far. With several of the coats, people often stop me in the street to ask where I got them. And adding a hat is a perfect way to accessorize your look this fall/winter. As I mentioned with hosiery, outerwear is something that should never be an afterthought. Be chic and get yourself a super stylish coat (or hat) — a little something different can go a long way.

Mikimoiselle will be hopping offline to show off her goods I.R.L. at Appel & Frank on Wed. December 7th. Details below:

Photography courtesy of Mikimoiselle

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Party Seen: Carrots 4th Anniversary Celebration

Sisters Melissa and Catie Grimm, who co-own CARROTS, celebrate the boutique's 4th anniversary

Ultra-chic boutique CARROTS, nestled in San Francisco’s posh Jackson Square neighborhood, celebrated its 4th birthday last Thursday evening and drew a crowd of uber-stylish San Franciscans, among them the evening’s hosts Taylor of Sterling Style, Samantha Rudd & Kendall Asmuth of Sequin Harvest, Erin Hiemstra of Apartment 34 and Caitlin of Sacramento Street. Read on for pics and detes from the night’s festivities.

Hosts Erin of Apartment34 and Caitlin of Sacramento Street strike poses in pairs of sweet sunnies.

Sam and Kendall of Sequin Harvest ventured into the City for the night from Napa to co-host the event and, of course, shop.

Taylor of Sterling Style

It’s no surprise that it was a working celebration for owner’s Catie and Melissa Grimm, as family, friends, shoppers and some of the city’s most style-savvy fashion bloggers such as Heather of Heather in a Candy Shop, Tara of Wonder Girl, Britt & Whit of Britt + Whit and Krystal of This Time Tomorrow oohed and ahhed over the boutique’s seemingly endless supply of lust-worthy goods. Needless to say, it was impossible to walk out the door without something on.

Party-goers take a break from shopping to catch up on the latest and dish

Josh of the Bon Vivants concocts one of many specialty cocktails served during the event.

Scott and Josh of  The Bon Vivants were busy behind the bar, where they speedily mixed up a few of their deadly delicious specialty cocktails (Pilgrim Punch, the Potrero Buck and the El Rio, to name a few) to keep guests going strong as they perused the merch.

Party-goers found items from such local designers as Geoffrey Young, Isly handbags by Sobia Shaikh and scarves from Camilla Olson in addition to the  a’bout + CARROTS pop up shop, the Grimm Sisters’ collaboration with designers Dean Hutchinson and Yunchieh Chang of Toronto-based a’bout, whom they have have teamed up with to create an exclusive line.

The party in full-swing

Carrots will no doubt be celebrating its 5th anniversary just as stylishly. If you can’t wait that long to snatch up some goods, and we don’t blame you if you can’t, you can find the Grimm sisters at 843 Montgomery st. San Francisco, Ca 94133.

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Photography courtesy of Colin Day

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

Good Gov’t: Mayor Lee Launches FashionSF

Mayor Ed Lee tours the Cayson Culinary Designs facility on Oct. 25 (image via flickr)

Who says San Francisco doesn’t care about style? Even the Mayor’s office is getting behind the local fashion industry with the launch of FashionSF, a new program that’s part of  the City’s Start Here, Grow Here, Stay Here economic development initiative.

Introduced on October 26 at longtime local manufacturer Cayson Culinary Designs in the Bayview by Mayor Ed Lee, District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen and local fashion industry executives, the program dedicates city staff and resources to supporting the growth and retention of apparel companies operating in San Francisco.

You don’t need us to tell you that San Francisco has a rich history in fashion and garment manufacturing. Along with major labels such as Levi’s and Gap, there are many smaller companies producing garments within city limits. (For more on that, check out our recent coverage of SJ Manufacturing, a SoMa-based company that works with many local start-up apparel lines.)

But while there are many fashion designers and manufacturing companies based in San Francisco, Mayor Lee thinks there could be far more:

“FashionSF brings together the private sector, educational institutions and the City to work towards a singular goal – to make San Francisco the preeminent location for fashion designer and apparel manufacturers,” said Mayor Lee in a statement. “I am committed to ensuring that apparel and design companies of all sizes can start, stay, grow and hire right here in San Francisco, driving job creation for all San Franciscans.”

So what does that all mean, practically speaking? The City will have a dedicated staff position to serve as a central point of contact to the fashion design and apparel manufacturing industry. A committee dubbed The Fashion Working Group and headed up by co-chairs Roger Kase of Isda & Co and Janet Lees of SFMade will guide and provide support for the initiative, while the San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) will be collaborating with the Fashion Working Group to pinpoint key industry needs, challenges, opportunities, and develop a Fashion Action Plan to prioritize and address.

“These are exactly they types of businesses we want to attract, support and have grow here in San Francisco,” said Supervisor Malia Cohen in a press release. “These small manufactures hire local residents and invest in our local communities.”

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