Fashion designers in san francisco
We're beyond obsessed with their motos, trenches, dresses, bucket bags and bangles.
So, we sat down with this talented quintet of emerging San Francisco designers to learn more about their labels, find out how they got their starts, where they like to shop, and where we can buy their stuff. Meet this season's crop of fashion mavens to watch.
Founder and designer, Cat Wu
(Courtesy of Catherine Wu)
It was lust at first sight when we met Cat Wu's signature modern moto, which debuted in spring. The jacket, made of the softest, butteriest, Italian lambskin leather, comes in a range of gorgeous colors (navy!), fits like a dream and sells for ,150 (think about cost per wear). Moto mama Catherine Wu was born and raised in LA but has been happily settled in San Francisco for years. She got her first taste of the Bay Area while studying sociology at UC Berkeley.
7x7: Long story short, how'd you get here?
CW: I spent over 10 years as a buyer [for a global luxury home décor brand]. It was my job to conceive and obsess over the smallest details, even the ones that aren't visible at first glance. So, when I couldn't find the perfect moto—many were too heavy, too bulky, or too stiff— I decided to use my decade of experience to create the perfect one myself.
I went through many rounds of getting the fit just right and finding the perfect leathers. When I received the final approved sample, I was so excited, I wore it right out of the meeting. That day, I got stopped twice on the street by people asking where I had gotten it, and suddenly my brand was born.
What sets your designs apart?
I obsess over the details. I'm a little OCD about it. From obsessing over the cut of the shoulder to the custom silk lining to scouring Italian leather mills for the softest leather I could find, I wanted my collection to be the perfect piece. It's equally important how you look and how you feel. Even if you're the only one who knows that the inside of your jacket is as gorgeous as the outside, it makes all the difference.
My moto jacket, skinny jeans, and a loose T-shirt or blouse. I have the Alexander Wang tees in every color.
Some of my favorites are Isabel Marant, Phoebe Philo, and Phillip Lim. Each has a very distinct look that they've cultivated into their own, which I think is so difficult to do.
One of my favorite neighborhoods is Jackson Square—it's a great place to wander whether it's for antiques or fashion. Some of my favorite brands have opened there recently, Isabel Marant and APC.
By the time I was ready to launch my line, I was eight-and-a-half months pregnant. I felt like I had two babies on the way. Both very exciting for different reasons.
Cat Wu is available for purchase online only. // catwu.com
(photography by Michael Bennett)
Founder and Chief Creative, AYK
(Courtesy of Angie Kim)
About a year-and-a-half ago, Angie Kim got her big break thanks to a Kickstarter campaign that raised over ,000 for her upstart accessories brand. AYK's signature leather Moon Bucket Bag, handcrafted and hand-dyed with a unique gradient treatment, has been wooing stylish shoulders ever since. When she's not traveling, the SF-based designer creates out of her cool Bayview studio. Handbags range in price from 5–5.
7x7: Describe your trajectory to this moment right now.
AK: Born in Seoul, South Korea. Moved to San Francisco at age three, and grew up loving art and making things. Graduated with a major in industrial design, moved to Boston, and worked for IDEO for six years. Lived in India for seven months, hit a eureka moment, and moved back to SF three years ago to start AYK. I'm currently traveling back and forth between San Francisco and Hong Kong with my boyfriend so that we can both pursue our careers together.
What distinguishes AYK from other bag brands out there?
We put a unique touch on classic silhouettes with a hand-dyed technique that brings an organic quality, making each piece personal and individual.
Black leather jacket, black T-shirt, black jeans, black heels, black liner...and nude lips.
Favorite wardrobe staple:
It's is more of a style philosophy: I love contrast and the juxtaposition of colors, textures, and styles, whether it be a feminine lace dress worn with a camo-print jacket, or ripped-up jeans and a T-shirt topped with delicate, gold jewelry pieces.
Ray and Charles Eames.
I like to hula hoop while watching television.
AYK is available for purchase in San Francisco at Dish and Seldom Seen (Hayes Valley), Elizabeth Charles (Pacific Heights), Alys Grace (Presidio Heights), and Maude Shop in Petaluma. // shopayk.com
Designer and founder, Waltz
(Courtesy of Danielle Colen)
She may be a native New Yorker but designer Danielle Colen's simple, high-quality pieces are tailor-made for effortlessly chic San Francisco women. Her two-year-old SF label Waltz—with pieces priced from 0 to 0—is all about minimalist design with a menswear vibe and feminine fit. Signature items like the trench and pleated trousers are made to wear everywhere, year-round and forever. (Everlane, watch your back.)
7x7: What's your story?
DC: I moved to San Francisco in 2006 to study photography at CCA [California College of the Arts]. But just before moving, I had been taking night classes in New York to learn to sew, drape, and make patterns. I really loved making clothing but I didn't realize it was my true passion until after I completed my photography degree.
I was resistant to the idea of fashion design as a profession because it felt too frivolous. But I couldn't shake the desire to continue learning how to design and make clothes, so I returned to school and got my MFA in fashion design at Academy of Art. I started my business a few years out of school and haven't looked back.
Describe your design aesthetic.
Minimal, clean, and quiet with an emphasis on shape and color.
What makes your label unique?
I'm not too concerned about being different. I would rather do something that you've seen a million times before—like a trench coat—but just do it really, really well.
My Waltz trench, vintage Levi's, T-shirt, and APC boots or Nikes.
Anaise, Anomie, Voyager, Maas & Stacks, James Rowland Shop, Press, Mill Mercantile, Reliquary, Gravel and Gold.
My great-grandmother was a milliner and my grandfather once owned a textile mill in Pennsylvania.
Waltz is available for purchase in San Francisco at Anaise (Mission), Anomie (Cow Hollow), Voyager (Mission), and online. // waltzstudio.com
Owner and designer, Svelte Metals
(Courtesy of Meghan Kanodia)
SF-dweller Meghan Kanodia, a St. Louis native and graduate of Parsons the New School for Design, creates sleek (with an edge) rings and bracelets that fit small-fingered, dainty-wristed ladies just like her. Since its launch three years ago, Svelte Metals has been quietly building a local following of fashion peeps who can't stack on enough of the jewelry, available in various metals. Even better? Most pieces won't set you back more than 0 to 0.
7x7: How'd you get here?
MK: After stints in styling and fashion marketing I decided to venture out on my own to create a collection that would solve my personal search for chic jewelry that fits beautifully.
Our best-selling ring is the Lancaster. Like most Svelte pieces, it's versatile and can be worn with everything from jeans and a tee to a gown at a black-tie event.
Describe your design aesthetic.
Streamlined, approachable, sleek. I'm known for designing pieces that work well together so that the Svelte girl can keep it simple with a couple pieces, or stack a whole bunch for a bolder look.
What makes your pieces distinct from the rest?
Svelte Metals are made using the same processes and care as fine jewelry. Each piece is made in the USA by a skilled artisan alongside some of the most coveted jewelry collections in the country.
The chilly (and unpredictable) SF weather tends to dictate my wardrobe, so I pretty much live in a leather jacket or long trench and ankle booties.
My ring size is just under a size 4, and I used to shop in the children's department for jewelry before I started Svelte.
Select pieces of Svelte Metals are available for purchase in SF at Seldom Seen and Amour Vert (Hayes Valley), with the full collection available online. // sveltemetals.com
The Patton Necklace
The Lancaster Ring
Owner and designer, Lily Stan Studio
(Courtesy of Lily Harris)
Lily Harris' two-year-old women's collection is all about staple pieces for creative women—think "tomboy with a touch of femininity and humor." Every garment is handmade to order in San Francisco, and we think that's pretty damn cool. (Similarly cool in our book: nothing is priced over 5.) A multitasking lady, Lily also works full-time as a childrenswear designer at Old Navy.
7x7: Tell us about your trajectory.
LS: I went to design school at RISD [Rhode Island School of Design], moved to New York to design for Kate Spade, moved home to Minneapolis to design childrenswear for Target, then moved to San Francisco with my now fiancé and found myself freelancing for Levi's short-term. Then, I was hired full-time at Old Navy doing childrenswear.
When I started working at Target, I really missed the tangible, creative work of sewing, so I started sewing myself. Eventually, I had enough response from people that I decided to sell the clothes, which is when I began Lily Stan Studio. I make clothing that I wish I had in my closet.
How does your own style inform your work?
My designs are not seasonal, so I only release newness when I feel like I need it in my own closet. Also, my aesthetic is a mix of tomboy and feminine with a minimalist direction, all layered together. I really am a one-woman show, so I feel like my personality shows through in my collections.
Favorite wardrobe staple:
Right now, it is my Tencel V-neck midi dress with a mock-neck top underneath.
Black culottes and a Lily Stan Studio top if I'm outside. Bike shorts and a knit T-shirt or a vintage graphic tee if I'm inside.
Voyager Shop always has unique pieces. Oak + Fort is great for decently priced minimal silhouettes. Legion carries a nice selection and has shows, which I appreciate. I love to go dream in Barney's sometimes, too.
I own two Cornish Rex kittens, and I spend most of my time playing with them.
Lily Stan's collections are available for purchase online only. // lilystanstudio.com