Couture In San Francisco: We Can Do It
Most of us wouldn’t think that tech and fashion had much in common, but in San Francisco, they’re both at the party now and I think it’s time they spoke. For a city whose dress code is constantly casual, “casual Friday” almost seems like an invitation to wear pajamas to work.
My advice to the city by the bay: We need a dress-up day.
I moved here in mid-2009 for the same reason that many other East Coast/New York transplants do: the work-life balance. I was so drawn to the beauty, openness, and happiness that seem to envelope this city. It possessed all of the cultural staples I was looking for, and most importantly, it offered a reprieve from the stresses of having to “keep up” as aggressively as you do in New York and Los Angeles. But what I didn’t realize until I’d lived here for a little while is that, when it comes to outward appearance, people aren’t trying to keep up with anything at all.
The central reason why I suspect that fashion is a rarity in this city is because of its unique history. For decades, San Francisco was synonymous with the hippie counterculture. In the nineties, the city became known as a hotbed for technology and software development. Now, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and all the other social media we engage with daily are used as a means to express what we like, how we see ourselves and how we want others to view us. What’s funny is that, at its crux, fashion is a means of self-expression too, a way of letting other people know how we feel about ourselves. And right now, the message that San Franciscans are sending out is that they just don’t care very much.
Maybe it’s a fear of pomposity, a fear of the stereotypes associated with fashion in other cities—fake people in LA, snobby people in NY, gaudy people in Miami, and snooty people in Paris. Whatever the cause, the consequence is the same: Flowing silk, sexy lace, gorgeous prints, fitted-blazers, costume jewelry, rompers, tuxedo shorts and a myriad of fabulous dresses, now get left at home.
Interestingly though, Jack Dorsey—one of the biggest tech pioneers in Silicon Valley (Twitter, Square), who has been called “more of a nerd than Steve Jobs”—is all-for things looking beautiful, and he thinks that should actually be part of the goal. On March 17, 2013, he was interviewed by Lara Logan for 60 Minutes, and he told her that he thinks good software is created when there is a seamless intersection between art and engineering. Dorsey described the Golden Gate Bridge as a perfect example. He explained that although it’s used daily as a practical solution for commuters, when people look at it they don’t think of its utility. Rather, they admire its simplicity and beauty. To Dorsey, that is “functionality and beauty,” and how better could you describe fashion?
Maybe it’s a fear of pomposity, a fear of the stereotypes associated with fashion in other cities—fake people in LA, snobby people in NY, gaudy people in Miami, and snooty people in Paris. Whatever the cause, the consequence is the same: Flowing silk, sexy lace, gorgeous prints, fitted-blazers, costume jewelry, rompers, tuxedo shorts and a myriad of fabulous dresses, now get left at home. All too often, they hang in our closets and mock us as we throw on some nondescript top, jeans and flats. Fabulous heels that, at first, looked amazing when displayed in incredible walk-in closets (ironically, very common in SF) now appear hung out to dry, collecting dust. Anytime I meet women (or men) in San Francisco who are from New York or Los Angeles, we always come around to the topic of fashion and bemoan the lack of it here. This city has a very laid-back and indifferent attitude towards fashion, sometimes bordering on judgmental. There’s a strange thing that happens here when you wear something that could be considered dressy or chic—there’s a feeling wafting in the air that people around you are thinking, “why is she trying so hard?” “Where does she think she’s going?” It seems like such undeserved judgment to come from such an “accepting” city. Somehow, we’ve all gotten the vibe that high fashion isn’t welcome in the city. This non-fashion trend is so palpable here, that people from both the tech and fashion camps have noted the hole in the market. As a result, in February 2013, there was a first ever fashion-themed hackathon (which was paired with Startup Weekend), and the city they chose to hold it in was San Francisco, precisely because it is a place known for high tech and not high fashion. Charles Belle, the cofounder of Lookaroo (a fashion startup) and SF FashTech, has said about tech and fashion that they are like “two ships passing in the night.” He expressed how the two groups are not only very disparate, but that they almost seem afraid of each other—they seem to not understand each other.
Just because a hankering for fashion is not homegrown in San Francisco, doesn’t mean it can’t be developed. If you don’t want to stick out, you can subtly put something together that is quietly sophisticated, or better yet, cute, sexy and unique. Your style does not need to be expensive or flashy to look good, so let’s throw on some heels and step it up a notch!
by Jenn Schmukler
Whoa Man, She’s Got Style
Calling all women: Sprinkling a few pieces of menswear into your closet is an effortless way to revive your existing wardrobe. Whether it be an oversized sweater, a watch, or a pair of vintage oxfords, investing in classic pieces will make your wardrobe last for years.
Pieces like these will provide versatility and add a unique twist to any outfit:
The bottom line: Experimenting with a little masculinity is key to balancing and elevating a timeless style.
by Louise Bisby