Express Yourself

San Francisco Downtown

April 6, 2006

Express Yourself
Spring Fashion is All About Individualism
by Amy Covington

After decades of experimentation we’ve reached acceptance of most fashion styles, with few exceptions. From the classic styles of the 50s (think Jackie O, Audrey Hepburn and Coco Chanel) and the free-flowing 60s, to the disco 70s (and who can forget the 80s) to today, when you can wear white before Memorial Day and also wear styles from any era with your own personal twist.

Graphic tees, embellished denim, pantsuits, romantic dresses with full skirts, safari-wear, organic fashion-this spring it’s all about variety, individualism and expression. You’ll see encore appearances of fall and winter trends including headbands, premium denim and expression-wear, along with romantic and vintage fabrics. Emerging as a big player this season is the pantsuit for women, as well as soft fabrics and 80s inspired pieces like leggings and peep-toe flats. For men the jacket is big, collars are getting wider and pant legs more narrow. For both guys and gals, the vintage look is hot. And finally, black is still the “new” black.

San Francisco boutique owners and designers have a lot of latitude this season and they are playing it up. “San Francisco fashion designers are really innovative and influenced by art,” said Erika Gessin, producer of San Francisco Fashion Week. “They’re taking risks and are not as trend focused. San Francisco fashion is about individuality.”

Jill Siefert (www.jillsiefert.com), San Francisco fashion stylist and professor at the Art Institute of California San Francisco, explains her take on this season’s style. “The newness is the oldness,” Siefert said. “Soft fabric that looks like you’ve had it for a while, like left-weave denim for a worn-in vintage look, is in. This spring it’s all about denim.”

Siefert revealed that embroidery, crochet, and lots of cotton are popping up on store racks, and organic fashion is an emerging local trend. “Anything appliqué and embroidery is huge,” said Siefert. “In jewelry, gemstones are popular, especially purple and green.” Anyone who remembers the ’80s brace yourself; leggings are back. According to Siefert, leggings are the #1 wardrobe item. Linnea Olson-Schwartz, Fashion Market Editor of Ellegirl Magazine, agrees. Dance-inspired pieces made her Top Ten list for the 15-25 demographic. Other items on her list were tapered jeans; slouchy roll-up shorts; table-cloth chic (i.e., baby doll dresses); big bows (i.e., big bow belts you can tie around a dress and big bow prints); jumpers and rompers; Peter Pan collar blouses; anything with polka-dots; safari trends; and really bold Kaleidoscope prints.

“Wooden heels and platforms are in,” said Olson-Schwartz. Peep toe flats, and patent leather in belts and shoes made the cut. There are some styles that don’t cross over. “Jumpers and rompers, leggings, and skinny jeans relate to the younger customer because they are easier to pull off,” Olson-Schwartz said. According to Olson-Schwartz, Marc by Marc Jacobs is a big hit, and Anna Sui and Betsy Johnson are favorites as well. “Target is also doing a great job with their partnerships with top designers and the price point is more accessible,” she said.

Romantic blouses, dresses and skirts are staples for spring. “Jan Warnock (www.janwarnock.com) makes beautiful blouses,” said Gessin. “Blouses are really feminine with a lot of detail and skirts are popular, both a-line or tight pencil. There is a lot of white this season, and lace and embroidery. Local designer Erin Mahoney has some great dresses perfect for a romantic date. For Jewelry, Kris Nations is hot.” Find Mahoney’s collection at Paragraph (654 Chenery.; 239-7800); Kris Nations Jewels are available at OOMA (1422 Grant; 627-6963), Rabat locations throughout the city, and through her web site (www.krisnations.com).

Against the Grain

For men, spring is ushering in a new look. “The striped untucked shirt was last season,” Siefert said. “For spring it’s combed cotton shirts, and shirt collars are wider. I’m seeing pretty pastels and the jacket is huge, like a lightweight suede jacket, but not a Members Only Jacket. Pant legs are slimmer, and Khakis are worn and pre-washed with vintage lining.”

Mingle Boutique (1815 Union; 674-8811) owner Mimi Ting, like many of the city’s style conscious, doesn’t identify with one look. “Sometimes I like to look really girly, sometimes grungy,” Ting said. “That’s what I tend to find with our client base, too.”

Ting accommodates her customers’ tastes with an eclectic inventory, including ties by San Francisco designer Gytha Mander (www.gythamander.com) and Cookie & the Dude (www.cookieandthedude.com) headbands, which add a bold statement to any outfit. “We have cute retro headbands with floral prints or cool vintage fabrics that look like silk,” said Ting.

Designer Mary Phillips has tapped into consumers’ desire to express themselves with her Black Label tees and tanks. They’ve been such a hit even Paris Hilton owns one. “Fashion in general is a statement,” said Phillips. “Expression-wear is fun and fashionable. It’s a piece that every girl needs to have in her wardrobe.” Check out Brown Eyed Girl (2999 Washington; 409-0214), Abigal Morgan (1640 Union; 567-1779), and Panetti’s (3927 24th; 648-2414) for Black Label tanks and tees.

Designer Josh Podoll, goes completely against the grain. “The marketplace is saturated with embellished and distressed denim and casual-wear that I want to see something that is more minimal and clean,” said Podoll. He calls his spring theme “subversive preppy.”

“By taking a classic blue cotton oxford shirt and irreverently printing a 19th-century etching of a mermaid on the inside chest…I took ‘classic prep’ one step past classic and made it fresh,” Podoll said. His line is carried at ABFits (1519 Grant; 982-5726) and Rolo (2351 Market Street; 415-431 4545).

Back to Basics

Rocio Penuelas, a fashion design student at The Art Institute of California San Francisco, is experimenting with organic fashion. “Organic design is a fairly new phenomenon, and I truly believe we will continue to see it grow,” said Penuelas. “Using organic or recyclable materials in fashion is giving a great message to all designers that we don’t need to use natural or animal products in order to create beautiful and fashionable garments.”

Designers are now creating trendy lines for San Francisco’s fashion-savvy mommy-to-be’s. “Spring trends for maternity clothes mirror ready-to-wear fashions,” said Shannon DiPadova, owner of Due Maternity (3112 California; 674-9850). “They don’t look like maternity clothes at all. There is a lot of embroidery and detail for spring and contrast stitching, and rhinestones on denim. A lot of ready-to-wear designers, like Citizens of Humanity, are making maternity denim.”

Pulling it all together

As any fashion-savvy person knows, accessories tie a look together. This season the belt is a key wardrobe piece. “Belts are a must-have for spring because they have gone from being a necessity to a favorite accessory that glams up any outfit,” said Meredith Loughlin, whose company, Pellemelle, offers leather accessories for women and men sold in boutiques all over San Francisco, including Rabat locations; Doe (629 Haight.; 415-558-8588); Ooma, and Lava 9 (542 Hayes; 552-6468). “Wide belts look great around the waist over a dress, jacket, or drapey tank. Colorful and embellished belts can add the perfect touch to a favorite pair of jeans.”

Large bags are “big” for day and mini bags are great for evening. “You can put the mini bag inside the big bag if you’re going out after work,” Siefert said. According to Mimi Ting, handbags are featuring more subtle hardware. “In the fall studs were popular,” she said. “For spring the studs are still there but are simplified. There are cleaner looks, and bright and bold colors.”

While it’s difficult to put one label on Downtown spring fashion, the tone is definitely feminine and romantic with attitude. The Downtown look embraces individualism above all else-so go ahead, express yourself.

Amy Covington is a freelance writer with several West Coast publications. Visit Amy’s website at www.TurningPointCreative.com.