Tag Archives: fashion

Black is the New Black

According to a well known saying, “______ is the new black.” Black is the standard of fashion. Clothing trends come and go, but recently pressure is being put on the fashion industry to let more go then just last season’s wardrobe go.

The lack of diversity in the fashion world goes far beyond the runway. Without cultural representation in major studios there are a great number of problems looming.

For too long designers have not had someone push back on styles and looks that disrespect various cultures. The fight for plus size models, for example, is a story within itself.

Fashion Design Student, Chrystlan Morehead – Tucker at SF State in the design room located in Burk Hall on March 8, 2018. (Kyler Knox/Golden Gate Express).

Skin, body type, sexuality, and culture are all being put into a senior fashion line produced by Chrysalyn Morehead-Tucker. Chrysalyn is a 24-year-old fashion student at San Francisco State University. It was her plan to study fashion at SF State.

“If I was gonna progress in the idea of bringing communities that aren’t represented in the fashion industry to the forefront, it would make more sense to come to a school that has those same views,” she shared.

Chrysalyn’s goal in the fashion industry is to change “the norm.” She explained that giving credit where it is due is the first priority on her list.

“Understanding some of the things that black culture has brought to the fashion industry but has not been given credit. I would love to say that this is something a black person did, this came from the black community,” Chrysalyn shared.

Changing how fashion is interpreted is an important aspect for designers like Chrysalyn, who use their talents to create a dialogue that shifts thinking. She explains that “being a fashion student at SF State kind of opened my eyes to more of what the fashion industry needs rather than what the fashion industry is asking for. I think the program here definitely emphasizes more on being able to change the industry for what it is.”

Chrysalyn is working on various projects that reflect her goals of including communities often overlooked by the fashion industry, such as her senior line that focuses on Afrofuturism. Chrysalyn describes Afrofuturism as “the idea of having black bodies in a futuristic setting and futuristic places.”

Inspired by Star Trek at a young age, Chrysalyn explains, “I’ve always been fascinated with the art form of Afrofuturism… ”

Chrysalyn’s idea is to concoct a combination of sustainability, futuristic settings, and Afrocentricity. She walks through the process and explains that she is “taking traditional African garments like Dashiki and repurposing them for my fashion show.”

She explains why sustainability is an important portion of her work by adding, “consumers are understanding that we need to be more mindful and conscious of what not only our clothes are made out of but what we do with our clothing once we feel like they reached the end of their cycle.”

Chrysalyn explained that sustainability was a process in Africa that was almost second nature to textile producers.

“There’s so much spiritual connection between African weaving, and African dying, and African printing, that means more than just aesthetics. There’s spiritual connections to it and I want to do it justice by showing the prints and the colors that makes Africa stand out from everyone else,” she expresses.

The fashion show put on at the end of year by fashion students is no small project because it pushes students to take everything they have learned and incorporate it into three to six pieces to display in front of their immediate community.

Dr. Dorie, the instructor and an alumna of the program, gave insight on what designers face for the fashion show.

Dr. Dorie explained, “We’re really trying to prepare them to go into the fashion industry and have a strong design aesthetic, so they leave understanding the elements of design and how to execute them,” Dr. Dorie explained

She jokingly added, “[The designers] won’t sleep all semester.”

She gave the timeline of the tireless semester and narrowed it down.

“If you think about a look for one model, that’s about three garments for one model it’s a lot of work.”

Even though the sleepless nights and the ever-changing fashion world, Chrysalyn sets her sights on creating a space in fashion for all people who do not feel like fashion is for them.

The Politics of Gender Package

By Xpress Magazine Staff

The Right To Privacy

A new debate is occurring which revolves around privacy and self-expression.

What is Gender Fluid?

A profile on what it means to be gender non-binary

Androgyny Is In

The growing trend of androgynous clothing within the fashion industry

Pink or Blue, Who the Hell Cares?

An Xpress Magazine staffer writes an opinion piece on how toys should be gender neutral

Androgyny Is In

By Carlos Mendoza

Milan Fashion Week brought the clothing industry a new state of mind, and it was all thanks to Gucci’s spring summer 2016 collection. The suave pussy-bow tie chiffon and crepe shirts, followed by floral prints and vibrant lace button-up shirts graced the catwalk. Bell-bottom trousers appeared on the show with frail waif-like male models, which strutted confidently in clothes that are traditionally worn by women.

Just as Gucci made a statement last fall winter 2015 season, head designer Alessandro Michele is back with another 70’s themed collection that is testing the barriers of gender and clothing.

The reality is that fashion designers has always been on the brink of breaking down the wall of gender-specific clothing and incorporate gender neutral clothing in their collections and campaigns. Public School, a New York City based clothing brand, is well known for being gender neutral. Their spring summer 2015 collection displayed over-sized trousers tailored for men on women. The models featured in the show closely coordinated with the design by possessing androgynous looks to match the outfits.

Niki Snyder a freelance designer and recent graduate of the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandise has had some of her pieces created and sold by the brand Betabrand. This modern minimalistic designer with a taste for textiles, believes that gender neutral clothing is a re-occurring fashion trend.

“Gender neutral clothes have always been around,” Snyder said. “We just never noticed it until now because of the times we are living in.”

The politics of gender, sexuality and orientation is on panel for discussion more frequently in comparison to other years according to Snyder.

Fashion and style, according to Snyder, should also reflect the times, and that clothes are all about comfortability.

“When I design something I don’t see it as a woman’s piece, or men’s, but rather unisex because depending on the person and their confidence they can pull off any type of clothing,” Snyder said.

Styling probably is one of the most important factors when it comes to the fashion world, according to Robert Finch a stylist/ fashion photographer.

“Style is everything,” Finch said. “You either have it or you don’t and every single item counts no matter if it comes from the woman’s department or men’s.”

Style according to Finch is iconography and can represent who you are as a person. When he style’s models or clients he doesn’t eliminate any options.

“I can style a woman and I will put on her a men’s white button up shirt because it is simple, chic and the way it fits a woman’s body is absolutely stunning,” Finch said. “For a man it can be as easy as an over-sized women’s coat throw it over the shoulders and he would look just as fabulous.”

Models also play a role in this transformation, according to Finch. There is a trend amongst models where their look is androgynous which provides a new sex appeal.

“Before there was models that looked strictly like men and women,” Finch said. “Now androgyny is in and people are getting in touch with their feminine and masculine sides.”

Finch admires this new look, because it provides a sense of eroticism and mystery to everyone.

A fad or a trend, but many people believe that this style might be around to stay for quite some time.

“I love everything about it and I know people are going to buy into this fashion trend,” Snyder said.

Reduce, Reuse, Restyle

Hair stylist Lexi Hernandez prepares model Kelsey Hernandez’s hair before the San Francisco Sustainable Fashion Week Green Glam Fashion Show in San Francisco Friday, Aug. 28, 2015. (Alex Kofman/ Xpress)


By Carlos Mendoza

[dropcap size=”50px”]A[/dropcap]s the room darkened, shades of florescent neon green and blue lights paved the way for a runway and the once loud grand ballroom at San Francisco’s Grand Hyatt fell silent as a woman stepped onto the catwalk. Eyes were fixed on the model’s ethereal rose pink dress which was made of wool with a simple silhouette and matching coat. The anticipation set in as the audience waited for the next look to emerge at the first show of the 2015 San Francisco Sustainable Fashion Week International.

The Green Glam Fashion Show was part of the sustainable fashion week and showcased work from local, national and international designers. This was not merely a fashion show, but rather a statement and supporting bid to a small-scale trend that is financed by a limited market.

Tracy Moreland, a sustainable fashion designer based in the South Bay, displayed her five-piece collection the night of the Green Glam Fashion Show.

“It was all really simple silhouettes and then I just patchworked all the fabrics together to make those dresses,” Moreland said.

The bohemian environmentalist said she uses disregarded materials, that some people may consider ugly, in an eco-friendly manner.

“I really do think that it’s important to use what we do have,” Moreland said. “Use that up and get that out of the landfill.”

Sustainable fashion doesn’t mean that customers have to sacrifice style and creativity according to Moreland. Creating a demand for eco-friendly garments is important for San Francisco and the greater Bay Area, she said.

Tuan Tran, a local sustainable fashion designer, works mainly out of his living room in Potrero Hill. He does not like to identify as a designer, but rather as an artist. Tran, who designs one-of-a-kind dresses in a John Galliano couturier essence, believes that everything he creates with recycled materials represents more of an “art wear” than typical attire.

Tran got his start when a friend challenged him to design a dress with telephone wire, which became the start of his first collection. Four more collections have followed since.

“There are so many beautiful things out there that we don’t really recognize unless we take it, deconstruct it and find beauty out of it,” Tran said.

Tran doesn’t believe in mass producing apparel and prefers to make unique pieces in order to prevent the disregarding of clothes.

“The more we buy, the more we throw away,” Tran said. “The less we consume the better.”

[pullquote align=”right”]“There are so many beautiful things out there that we don’t really recognize unless we take it, deconstruct it and find beauty out of it,” Tran said.[/pullquote]

Working alone and producing elegant gowns can take weeks, sometimes even months. His custom dresses cost anywhere from $1,500 to $7,500 because of the materials and hours of production that go into their creation. Tran believes San Francisco is a leading sustainable city where consumers are looking for eco-friendly clothing.

Sustainable fashion is an emerging market, and according to Dr. Connie Ulasewicz, a professor at San Francisco State University who holds a doctorate in sustainable fashion, the industry is comprised of three domains: people, process and the environment.

The first domain, people, is composed of everyone from the designers to the consumers. Process is the growing, manufacturing and consumption of natural resources. The final domain of the cycle, environment, is the materials that are being used for both manufacturing and consuming.

“You can’t just look at one aspect of this, you have to look at the connection between them,” Ulasewicz said.

According to Ulasewicz, the city of San Francisco throws away 4,500 pounds of textiles every hour and a single person can throw away 65 pounds of textiles on average. All of this waste comes after using up to 2,700 liters of water to make one cotton t-shirt.

Using all of your sources to the very end, plus finding a way to reuse materials is a perfect method when practicing sustainability, according to Ulasewicz. Shopping at big retailers that do not practice sustainability with lower prices can be tempting to consumers, however, Ulasewicz believes it is up to the designers to provide the information.

For Russell Esmus, a local apparel specialist and advocate for sustainable fashion believes working with reusable materials is key. His latest project utilizes reused tablecloths and napkins from hotels to make tote-bags. The stained, misshapened tablecloths in his Mission District studio show what sustainability is all about.

The connection between eco-friendly food and sustainable clothing is apparent to Esmus, he sees the trends going in the same positive direction, with fashion at a slower pace.

“I think we are still 10 years out minimum from a strong consumer awareness,” Esmus said. “It takes people a really long time to understand.”

Esmus said a designer has to go above and beyond just using organic materials and labeling oneself sustainable. He believes that establishing a connection with consumers is a business practice that can help sustainability grow.

“By buying a brand that you feel like you can connect with, that you feel like is a better brand, you are more likely to keep it longer because you have more of a connection with it,” Esmus said.

Although the sustainable fashion industry is gaining traction, it still has a ways to go. The concept has yet to break into the minds of the mainstream consumers, but designers like Tran, Esmus, Moreland and others will continue to provide for the niche market in the Bay Area.

Eco-friendly Fashion: How Sustainability has become Mainstream

This story can also be found in the App Store for iPad! 

“What is the difference between organic cotton and regular cotton?” a customer asks.

“Well, organic cotton is made with 60 percent less water than conventionally grown cotton and is produced without the use of pesticides,” replies a sales associate.

Organic cotton, alongside recycled polyester, silk, bamboo, hemp, rayon, and modal, are materials that are commonly used to make eco-friendly clothing.

Sustainable fashion and eco-friendly clothing are on the rise. With large corporate powerhouses like H&M launching a “Conscious Collection,” to small boutiques that carry and produce their own sustainable clothing and accessories, eco-friendly fashion can be found wherever you turn; and if you’re in San Francisco, these little boutiques can be found on some of your favorite city streets.


prAna clothing store in Pacific Heights, San Francisco on April 21st, 2015. Photo by Zhenya Sokolova

PrAna is located on Fillmore Street in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights District. This eco-friendly boutique is on the same street as runway dominating brands like Steven Alan, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Ralph Lauren, Ella Moss, and Rag and Bone; in a sea, or street, of sameness, PrAna is able to stand out by providing “sustainably made clothing for active lifestyles,” according to Assistant Manager Chanel Chang.

PrAna began as a yoga clothing company 22 years ago, and ended up developing into an active lifestyle brand while branching out into more variations of stylish silhouettes, as Chang explains. Now instead of just sweat wear, you can find pretty much any piece of clothing from recycled polyester swimwear and organic cotton maxi skirts to hemp flared lounge pants and, of course, their signature madera yoga pants.

The storefront simply exudes PrAna’s mission statement: looking active while remaining sustainable. The first thing to attract your eye when entering the Fillmore location is color and pattern. The store is filled with exotic hues from bright pinks and oranges to mellow, yet, exuberant, blues and greens. Patterns vary from tribal-esque to florals, something so simple, like patterning, makes a big difference.

The store is equipped with large-scale picture installations like, for example, a man leaping from a cliff, and another portrait of men and women, in yoga attire, practicing the child’s pose. Other displays around the store help to promote the mission of the company: One display lays out bathing suit tops and shorts, ideal for swimming, while another showcases pants and a windbreaker jacket, for hiking, if need be.

“Our customers are fun-loving, soulful people who travel well, play hard and care about the impact they have on the world around them,” says Jasmine Schmidt, PrAna’s public relations manager.

If active is what PrAna is aiming for, they definitely have found their ideal customer base in Pacific Heights; the store is bustling from opening till closing with customers who share PrAna’s values for sustainability- even if they don’t know it yet.

Not only does PrAna make sustainable clothing, they also hold community events in their store for neighbors and fellow merchants to take part in. Their monthly event calendar can be found in their Fillmore store, with events from group yoga sessions to ladies night. Stop by and be enthralled by all that this fantastic store has to offer.
As for the future, Schmidt says, “Companies will continue to increase the amount of styles that are sourced sustainable and more sustainable materials. Fair trade apparel will also become more universal with more and more companies starting to open up their supply chain to the end consumer so people can measure their impact from beginning to end. Customers are becoming more educated and more vocal about how and where their clothing is made and they will continue to look for those brands that meet their needs.”

Amour Vert is a sustainable clothing store in Hayes Valley.

Amour Vert translates to “green love,” and what other city in the world is filled with such lovers of green than those in San Francisco. Amour Vert is located in San Francisco’s cozy Hayes Valley District, right next to Patricia’s Green. Their mission, “With every stitch a purpose,” is a reflection of the simplicity that Amour Vert brings to sustainable clothing.

Imagine a chic, edgy, and independent woman, who doesn’t necessarily follow the rules, but is deeply connected with the world around her and who is continually fighting for her beliefs- that is, according to Christoph Frehsee, Amour Vert’s co-founder and owner, the type of lady that shops at Amour Vert.

Incorporating great eco-friendly fabrics like organic cotton, silk, and their classic, one and only wood pulp, Amour Vert connects sustainability and fabulous eco-friendly clothing with the aforementioned fashionable leading lady.

Frehsee and his wife Linda became inspired to create the company after reading an article stating that the fashion industry is the second most polluting industry, right behind oil. This inspiration lead the couple to the concept of Amour Vert, and from the looks of it, they haven’t looked back yet.

Amour Vert is a sustainable clothing store in Hayes Valley.

Amour Vert isn’t the stereotypical kitschy eco-friendly company, with simplistic designs and itchy fabrics- no, they are the pioneers for the sustainability in fashion movement. Amour Vert’s line can be seen in various Nordstrom’s, Lucky, and Revolve stores.

“I don’t like trends,” laughs Frehsee, “but I see sustainability as a natural trend that will eventually become the new normal.”

An added bonus when buying from Amour Vert is that for every T-shirt sold, they plant a tree through their Plant a Tree foundation with American Forests. According to Frehsee, 30,000 have been planted already and the company plans to plant 100,000 by the end of the year.

“Its a fantastic way to give back and it’s close to my heart,” says Frehsee. “We need to be mindful of our resources.”

Alternative Apparel is a sustainable clothing company and store in Hayes Valley.

Alternative Apparel, located in Hayes Valley, is an excellently modern eco-friendly store that specializes in “creating modern basics for a sustainable future,” according to Kai Shane, the store leader.

Alternative Apparel is founded on the premise of eco-friendly activewear. Alternative Apparel started as a wholesale company known for their contemporary and stylish basics, the most sought after being their cloud like cotton hoodies, and now have four storefronts in the U.S- two in Los Angeles, one in New York City, and another here, in San Francisco’s very shop-able Hayes Valley district.

The store, very minimalistic, with a wooden chandelier hanging from the ceiling, showcases what Alternative Apparel is truly about: basics.

“We tend to think of our customers as modern creatives. Our basics act as sort of a uniform because you can take it in whatever direction you like to express your own particular style,” says Shane.

Kai Shane, manager of Alternative Apparel, a clothing store in Hayes Valley, San Francisco, stands at the register on April 22nd, 2015.

When the ordinary person thinks of basics, they may imagine T-shirts, tank tops and knitted pull-over sweaters; however, here at Alternative Apparel, they sell basics with an edge. For example, a black dress, made with silk and exquisite paneled sides indenting on the figure, as well as leggings, patchworked with grey terrycloth and paired with an organic cotton striped bralette. Hoodies are also a big catch here, made with something they call a tri-blend, generally consisting of organic cotton, rayon, and polyester. Last December, the San Francisco store donated 100 of their incredibly soft hoodies to the non-profit Project Homeless Connect for their “Hoodies for Homeless” drive.

Their exclusive basics are made with non-toxic, low-impact natural dyes, and 60 percent less water than traditional use through their G2 process, which is essentially a washing process that uses “ozone technology.”

“I see the future of eco-friendly clothing being mainstreamed,” says Shane. “As customers become more sophisticated and demanding, with new technologies and information spreading, more people will become more compliant with these kind of things. I think it’s going to become just the way we do business, hopefully, I’m keeping my fingers crossed.”

A shopper walks out of Foxglove an eco-friendly store on 24th Street and Treat Ave. in the Mission District of San Francisco. Photo by Emma Chiang

Foxglove, located in San Francisco’s Mission district as well as in Berkeley, is home to a wide array of locally made products, fair trade clothing and accessories, as well as organic and sustainable commodities.

According to owner, Rachel Kinney, Foxglove offers a carefully chosen selection of fashion, gifts and accessories that reflect the modern ideals of today’s conscious consumers. Kinney’s main focus is to provide customers with a thoughtful experience, allowing them to leave knowing that they have made an impact on the world in some way- whether if they bought an item that is fair trade to promote healthy work environments for women in India, or handcrafted by a local artist in the community.

“I can only hope that it continues to grow,” says Kinney, referring to the eco-friendly clothing movement. “The San Francisco Bay has a reputation for pioneering a number of environmental movements, and those ultimately serve as a model for other communities and cities. As information and trends spread, there can eventually be a large impact made when larger markets adopt more sustainable policies.”

Foxglove an eco-friendly store on 24th Street and Treat Ave. in the Mission District of San Francisco. Photo by Emma Chiang

Foxglove carries an ample amount of beautifully made clothing and accessories, from patterned dresses, handmade, one-of-a-kind jewelry, and even children’s clothing! Next time you are dying to buy an unique gift, or just curious about shopping locally, Foxglove is the place to let yourself explore the world of sustainability.

“I just think that it’s important to be thoughtful about the way we consume,” says Kinney.

Skunk Funk, an eco-friendly store located on 14th and Valencia Street in the Mission District of San Francisco. Photo by Emma Chiang

Skunk Funk is another eco-friendly brand located in San Francisco’s Mission District, as well as their second location in the Haight district. Their goal is to provide sustainable fashion for all, by using their own fabrics and textiles. According to their sustainability page on their website, Skunk Funk’s aim is to, “have 100% of our environmentally-friendly fibers certified by 2015 either with the GOTS standard or more globally with the CCS (Content Claim Standard) for all material inputs.”

So what’s sets them apart? Well, first of all, they definitely live up to their name; their clothing is indeed funky, but in a good way. Patters, colors, and styles that are each in their own contemporary with a twist. What sets Skunk Funk truly apart is their seasonal lookbooks, all arranged by color, to fit the consumers desires for fun, fresh eco-friendly fashion. Check out their Spring/Summer lookbook here.

You will not see any of one-of-a-kind these designs in a department store, but you may see them on someone walking on Valencia Street.

Skunk Funk, an eco-friendly store located on 14th and Valencia Street in the Mission District of San Francisco. Photo by Emma Chiang

Resort Fashion 2016: Is it Innovation? Or just location?

From the shores of Seoul, to the backyard of the late Bob Hope’s Palm Springs home, designers are sure trying to garner attention for their Resort 2016 looks based on the place that they are presented. I guess it is how it sounds, though, because when deciding on where to vacation, its all about location, location, location.

These Resort 2016 collections seem to have been the jack of all trades, and the trades being inspirations for future fashion weeks to come. It’s my belief that the creative directors from Dior, Louis Vuitton, and Chanel weren’t dreaming of the beach and warm weather when designing these looks, rather, they were dreaming of innovation.

Christain Dior Resort 2016. Photo by Gianni Pucci.

Raf Simons, when choosing the location for the show, chose Le Palais Bulles, located in the south of France on the cliffs between Monaco and Cannes. Simons said to Style.com that the location, from his eyes, was, “playful, sweet and childish almost.”

You can see the location inspiration translating into the collection. With a series of thinly striped plaids, circle and a-line skirts lined with fishnets, subtle knit accents (a hint maybe?), as well as glimmering sequined rompers, the collection did, sort of, exude childishness. Although, the Dior sophistication shined through when Simons presented silk, sleeveless dresses, (to my surprise) black structured pant suits, and their signature low-height heels. No surprise there.

Christian Dior Resort 2016. Photo by Gianni Pucci.

The combination of youthfulness and dignity sure made this resort collection ingenious in more ways than one. Just like the desert sun, this collection surely radiated confidence, yet, I could not personally see one wearing these pieces at say, Coachella, or BottleRock. But fashionistas, will, and have, dared to cross the line, and why not cross it with Dior fishnets and shimmery sequins?

Louis Vuitton Resort 2016. Photo by Alessandro Garofalo.

Nicolas Ghesquiere’s was handed the reigns of Louis Vuitton not even a year ago, and he is already doing some serious brand development with the latest collection. Let me explain. From the start of this Resort 2016 show, Ghesquiere’s already had a vision. That vision being Bob Hope and his $25 million Palm Springs home, the backdrop for the runway show.

“I love the idea of being sweet and hard at the same time,” Ghesquiere’s commented to Style.com, referring to the estate, which is currently for sale for the aforementioned amount.

What a way to sum up LV into such a little amount of words. Let’s take in for consideration the signature stiletto, fun and friendly on top, red and devious on the bottom. Ghesquiere’s sure has a hold on the mission of the brand, I will give him that. However, the collection, innovative for sure, shared similar creative styles as other top tier designers, such as Alexander Wang.

Louis Vuitton Resort 2016. Photo by Alessandro Garofalo.

The collection was filled with prints, stripes, combinations of exquisite fabrics, contrasts of colors and styles, alongside a lot of layering. For example, pleather shorts paired with an equally pleather top, long, flowing skirts and pants with crop tops, off-the-shoulder cutouts, boxy suede jackets and silk blouses. Sound familiar? Unless black, boxy and flowy is totally in, and I’m just missing the cue, there may have been some creative overlap on the playing field.

All criticisms aside, the individual pieces truly did tell a story. That story being, Ghesquiere’s knows how to reel in a crowd and hold their attention.

Chanel Resort 2016. Photo by Yannis Vlamos.

I had a dream the other night where I thought, well believed, that I met Karl Lagerfeld, Chanel’s creative director. In this dream I was finally able to see him without his, almost permanent, sunglasses on. I was so ecstatic, I was going to tell everyone, then I woke up.

I’m thinking that this was a sign, a sign eluding me to Chanel’s Resort 2016 collection, which was shown off the coast of Seoul. I’m still figuring out the meaning behind the dream, but I know that this collection, is one for the books.

Lagerfeld continually puts out excellent products in the form of fashion, and of course, this particular collection was a great example. Themes from Paris Fashion Week can be seen here, but what’s not to love. The Korean inspiration for this collection offered Lagerfeld with a wider range of creative perspective, not needed, but sought after.

Chanel attracts celebrity attention as Korean culture attracts worldwide trends, so truly, the two go hand in hand. The pieces in this particular collection were extremely engaging. The colors were bubbly, the prints were pastel, the patent was well-placed, and the jumpers and drop-waisted skirts were a great addition to the already present trend.

Chanel Resort 2016. Photo by Yannis Vlamos via Style.com.

The collection made me feel as if I was almost traveling through time, yet still remaining modern. I could see Peggy Olson, from AMC’s Mad Men, wearing the pastel purple signature Chanel coat with the patch-worked pencil skirt, well, only if she was willing, and able (to pay for it). I’m sure Jackie Kennedy, and Audrey Hepburn, would be in love with the drop-waisted collared and pleated dress, if it came with a Chanel bag, of course. Finally, I could see contemporary artist FKA Twigs in the high waisted cut-out black and white skirt, as well as the oxford-styled white layered blouse.

Lagerfeld truly knows how to woo an audience, but I guess there’s perks when Anna Wintour is on your speed dial.


Resort 2016 sure feels like a teaser for the September fashion weeks, but let’s take one from the books, take a chill pill (accompanied with a mimosa) and enjoy the fashion-frenzy free-time we have until then.

It’s All About Bridal Fashion Week- For Now.

Photo courtesy of Carolina Herrera. 

If you are affluent in fashion, you know very well of Paris, New York, Milan and London Fashion Weeks, whether it be spring or fall; but are you well-versed with Bridal Week?

This writer, was not. I always knew that some designers, like, obviously, Vera Wang and Oscar de la Renta, were known for their bridal gowns, but I never knew that there was a dedicated week for showing them off, like there is for the above mentioned fashion weeks. I guess when you are not a soon-to-be bride you are not too concerned with designer bridal gowns. However, after one look, I was hooked.

Bridal Fashion Week is much more than just bridal gowns, it’s a chance for designers to entirely change the scope of what traditional wedding gowns are “supposed” to look like, in each of their own particular ways.

Photo courtesy of Vera Wang.

Vera Wang, who has dressed Heidi Klum and Chelsea Clinton for their weddings, displayed quite an existential modern day collection. The line screamed for millennial attention, while simultaneously exuding millennial characteristics: dignified, yet daring.

Classic silhouettes, structured, and trimmed with lace, but sheer, with black accents; generally a big no-no for the big day, Wang decided to run with it, creating a new scope for the new modern bride, while still staying true to her previous bridal lines.

Photo courtesy of Oscar de la Renta.

Oscar de la Renta himself still can be seen in this season’s Bridal Spring 2016 line, even with his passing last October. Peter Copping, the new creative director for the brand, told Vogue that he wanted this line to be entirely focused on the bride… Ahem… who else?

“You have to remember: Most of these dresses are seen from behind,” Copping told Vogue. “That was something I really wanted to consider: to think how it would look when the bride is in front of everyone, and to make it as gorgeous as the front.”

Now that’s all sorted out, we can focus on the collection. Copping was able to retain the regal elegance that de la Renta set forward when he began his fashion house in 1965, that being, simple and elegant, while giving off the essence of individuality and exclusivity. For example, a cocktail gown, white, with lace trim and a high neckline, right after a feathered corset ballgown, this collection was an example of the smooth transition from de la Renta’s hands to Copping’s.

Photo courtesy of Marchesa.

Marchesa, who dressed fashionista Blake Lively for her wedding to Ryan Reynolds, is relatively new to the bridal world, only beginning in 2004. Known for their delicately embellished and sophisticated gowns, it is my belief that color was on the mind of Keren Craig and Georgina Chapman, the founders and creative directors for the brand.

It seems that an eggshell-ish creme color decorated their Bridal Spring 2016 collection, with no white in sight. The hue of the gowns did not misguide their tone, however. Marchesa kept with their mission: designing one-of-a-kind detail-oriented gowns to the brides who crave worldly couture, but this time, with a loss of white.

Bridal Week may be that second-leg layover from the spring fashion weeks, but it is just as worthy, if you give it a shot.

See more trends from Bridal Week Spring 2016 here.


New York Fashion Week: The Standouts

Diane von Furstenberg Fall/Winter 2015. Photo by Yannis Vlamos via Style.com

It’s February. No, not February on the west coast, February in New York, which can only mean that it is that time of year where fellow New Yorkers, fashion moguls, and even designers must remove themselves from their isolated winter hibernation zones in pursuit of getting the first glimpses at this year’s New York Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2015 Ready-To-Wear Collections.

Although the New York Fashion Week for Spring/Summer that is annually held in September generally draws in larger crowds, the Fall/Winter show brings out the dedicated, strong-willed individuals that are willing to face NYC while it’s freezing cold. The collections that have showed, and are currently showing, are exceptional. Designers like Tommy Hilfiger, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Rag & Bone, Banana Republic, Victoria Beckham, Kanye West for Adidas Originals, Nicole Miller, Polo Ralph Lauren, Zac Posen, Alexander Wang, Christian Siriano, and Diane von Furstenberg will be shown during New York Fashion Week, just to name a few.

These Ready-to-Wear collections are trying to make a statement. With the New York cold on everyone’s mind, designers aimed to distract and give the crowd what they are looking for, along with pieces that they could go home, snuggle up, and dream about.

New York Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2015: The Standouts

Christian Siriano Fall/Winter 2015. Photo by Marcus Tondo via Style.com

If animal print has never screamed “fierce” to you, Christian Siriano’s Fall/Winter 2015 Ready-to-Wear collection will finally open your eyes to the jungle-esque intrigue that is each and every one of his finely-crafted pieces.

These pieces, like a cashmere, tiger-print, sleeveless full-length jacket, alongside an eye-popping ostrich feather evening gown, fantastically complemented the wilderness theme backdrop. Models graced the runway with dark, maroon eyes and clean,  powdered lips, not to take away from the charm brought on by Siriano’s classic handiwork.

This collection, which was heavily influenced by Siriano’s clients’ affection for color and desire for texture, showcases Siriano’s undying ability to adapt to the changing trends in modern society.

Playing with timeless silhouettes while inventing and perfecting twists on contemporary ready-to-wear pieces, Siriano’s capability to give his clients what they’ve been craving, without them saying a word, is phenomenal.

Always keeping his lovely-lady clients in mind, Siriano told Style.com backstage before the show that, “She’s not shopping for another black coat. It has to be something that she almost has never seen before.”

Diane von Furstenberg Fall/Winter 2015. Photo by Yannis Vlamos via Style.com

Imagine Carrie Bradshaw, you know, played by Sarah Jessica Parker. Remember what Bradshaw wore for her first day at Vogue? A cute little pinstriped vest over a men’s collared shirt with red pumps to tie it all together. It is my thought that Diane von Furstenberg channeled Bradshaw’s office-esque chic when designing her Fall/Winter collection, and why not? Bradshaw always had impeccable style on Sex and the City.

Oh right, Fashion Week! von Furstenberg’s collection expressed ideas of empowerment for today’s leading ladies, which is all the ladies. The beautiful takeaway from von Furstenberg’s pieces of work is this: Almost every woman can imagine herself in these pieces. Whether it is the white bomber jacket, the floral collared gown, or even the Bradshaw-esque classically tailored pinstripe pantsuit. These pieces are delicately designed to go from day to evening wear.

The type of revolutionary glamour that von Furstenberg’s collection is able to capture is the essential intrigue for modern wear for the modern woman. These pieces, though not out of the ordinary, are edgy and captivating, while still preserving the essence of empowerment.

Nicole Miller Fall/Winter 2015. Photo by Yannis Vlamos via Style.com

In folklore, there are massive amounts of stories involving forests and the creatures that live in them. From scary wolves, trolls, a problem-solving Cheshire cat, nymphs, and even fairies, Nicole Miller wanted to capture the spirit of the forest in one collection — and she did it.

Much like the forests in folklore, Miller’s looks for this collection have never been explored before. Prints, embellishments, glitter, and metallic are all usually found in a Betsy Johnson collection, but Miller took the plunge and created what people have been hyped up about lately.

The collection, which included forest inspired prints with galactic looking platforms, patch-work mini-skirts with glitter and paired with a camo blazer, surprisingly were not the pieces that stood out. Marvelously enough, it was the pieces with the least amount of frills that gained the most attention and intrigue. One simple tri-toned evening gown made headway for Miller’s entire collection.

The cohesive collection maintained a central theme of fairy princess turned contemporary woman, what I assume would be my 11-year-old self’s dream wardrobe.

In this compilation of admirably outlandish pieces, Miller was able to hone in on a child’s imagination while still remaining in reality.

“I wanted to do the dark forest, but go deeper than that. It was about fantasy,” said Miller to Style.com backstage before the show. A round of applause for taking, and landing, the leap.

Alexander Wang Fall/Winter 2015. Photo by Yannis Vlamos via Style.com

The man, the myth, and the legendary collection he has established leads the way towards producing fashionable athletic wear. Alexander Wang debuted his Fall/Winter 2015 collection this week at New York Fashion Week. Sportswear meets designer fashion – who would have thought.

Let’s just start by saying that the model’s were styled to look like they just worked out, if they worked out with all of their hair in their face, while keeping their pristine makeup in place. Athletic wear, indeed. In the aspect of style, Wang was able to make it work.

Check out the collection he created for H&M via The New York Times here.

Wang’s Fall/Winter collection could have been straight out of the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame. Any hard rocker would be able to tell you that you should always match your black clothing, and Wang did just that. His collection was solely wrapped in the idea that every client, right now, is wanting more and more black clothes, so he has provided.

Take a peek at what happened backstage here.

With the risk of his pieces looking and falling flat on the runway (due to the fact that an all-black-collection doesn’t show well in lighting or pictures), Wang was faced with a challenge. He decided to up the ante. Leather combat boots, silver metal ball embellishments that lined each finely crafted garment, and decadently tailored moto jackets all marched down the runway, each and every piece making a name for itself.

The cohesiveness of this collection is remarkable. Without a doubt, when we see the color black in Fall/Winter 2015, our minds will absolutely think of Alexander Wang.

Finale at Tommy Hilfiger Fall/Winter 2015. Photo via Tommy Hilfiger Instagram.

With New York Fashion Week still upon us, it is unclear what other remarkable, trend-setting collections will grace the streets across the world this fall, but it is important to remember that inspiration comes from diversity, and these few collections showed just that.

Akiba Kei gone local

Japan has been known as land of the most hard-working people in the world, home of over two hundred flavors of Kit Kats, the anime utopia, but perhaps most notably: a mecca for quirky, diverse fashion.

In the past few years, art, street fashion, and the Internet have become a trifecta in cyberspace. Thanks in part to Tumblr’s reblogging and the simplicity of sharing, obscure American artists with Eastern-influences have garnered more of an audience than ever before. Rather than posting miscellaneous anime fanart to DeviantArt to be seen by basically no one, Tumblr’s reblogging functionality has paid off, literally and figuratively, with unique brands coming to fruition online.

  • Self-proclaimed Pebble posed at Japan Center in San Francisco's Japantown. ALL PHOTOS BY LORISA SALVATIN.


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  • Self-proclaimed Pebble posed at Japan Center in San Francisco's Japantown. (ALL PHOTOS BY LORISA SALVATIN/ Xpress Magazine)
  • Goldie Cylon poses in San Francisco Japantown's MARUQ.
  • Cylon wears a hat from Shibuya SF.
  • Tiffany Yu poses in San Francisco Japantown's Peace Plaza.
  • Self-proclaimed Kimi x Kimi poses in MARUQ.
  • Kimi x Kimi wears a Sailor Moon Crisis Moon Compact made by Kuma Craft.
  • Kimi x Kimi carries an Angelic Pretty bag.

Artists Justin Wallis, OMOCAT, Michy Soong, and Brandon Reierson have jumpstarted their personal brands on the Internet with their Japanese-inspired art and clothes. Some of Wallis’ 1990s-Japan-enthused art has garnered as much as twenty-four thousand notes on Tumblr. OMOCAT launched a Kickstarter campaign earlier this year for her first video game Omori, a semi-autobiographical surreal horror Role Playing Game (RPG) Maker game, and made over $200,000, enough for a 3DS port and smashing its miniscule $22,000 goal. While not quite household names, their art is widespread in all corners of the Internet, from Tumblr to Instagram to Twitter and elsewhere, these artists and others are gaining traction with Japanese-inspired fashion – and fast.

With other niche-cyber-fashion trends such as the sporty-yet-dark, amplified-subtrend-of-normcore Health Goth and aqua-infused Seapunk slinking their way into modern U.S. streetwear, the Japanese street fashion trend Akiba kei is a slang term for the style that resonates from the Akihabara district of Tokyo, a home for otakus, or obsessive fans of anime and video games. Akiba kei is dorky yet accidentally cool: oversized shirts with anime girls and boys plastered on it, skater skirts paired with boots or platform sneakers and thigh-high socks. Akiba kei lifts direct influences from anime, video games, manga, and any other sort of Japanese-produced media; western artists and designers have tapped into this obscure trend.

  • Amarin, as she is called at MARUQ, suggested that the store carry OMOCAT when picking new bands to feature. While MARUQ used to carry only imported items from Japan, the store is changing direction and beginning to include American brands as well, Amarin said. In this photo, Amarin wore a TVGIRL sweater by OMOCAT.

  • OMOCAT's Weeaboo Sports Jacket at MARUQ in San Francisco's Japantown.

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  • Amarin, as she is called at MARUQ, suggested that the store carry OMOCAT when picking new bands to feature. While MARUQ used to carry only imported items from Japan, the store is changing direction and beginning to include American brands as well, Amarin said. In this photo, Amarin wore a TVGIRL sweater by OMOCAT.
  • OMOCAT's Weeaboo Sports Jacket at MARUQ in San Francisco's Japantown.
  • OMOCAT's sweatshirts and T-shirts featuring her manga, Pretty Boy.

Artist OMOCAT’s, who wishes to remain anonymous for this article, foray into Japanese-inspired art and fashion is simple: it is a personal outlet.

“My favorite thing about Japanese pop culture and fashion is how free, fun, and open-minded it is,” says OMO. “I was often made fun of for looking and acting different than others. It was very hard to make friends so I focused my time elsewhere. To me, Japanese fashion and pop culture really embraced standing out and being exceptional, so it provided some respite for the harder years of my childhood, and gave me hope that things would get better.”

OMOCAT has expanded from simply producing prints of anime fan art of Cowboy Bebop and Gurren Lagann to her very-own sweatshirts, t-shirts, and even a wristwatch. OMO’s career can be credited to young people’s rampant usage of social media, as well as like-minded fans of anime and manga who did not have an outlet to buy Japanese-inspired merchandise. On getting started, OMO wanted to change perspectives.

“I wanted to change the connotation of what it means to be an anime fan,” says OMO. “Liking anime has a really negative connotation and I wanted to bring something new to the table.”

Meanwhile, artist Justin Wallis of brand MILKBBI created a line of accessories, clothes, and stationery a few years ago, and has also seen his brand grow exponentially since he began. His cute, dreamy, artistic style is inspired by 1990s Japanese aesthetic, and has garnered a following: it is nearly impossible to attend a Japanese Pop music, or J-Pop, concert without seeing a fan wearing a crewneck designed by him, laden with sketches of a Nokia phone, a mecha helmet, a droopy-looking puppy, and 90s internet browser windows.

“MILKBBI is a way for me to create my own version of the things I love, like clothes and accessories,” said Wallis. “It’s very inspiring to me to see successful brands who create their own unique style. There seems to be a lot more exposure for Japanese street fashion over the last few years. [Since] more people are really into it now, I think it’s natural for them to start imitating the styles they like.”

  • The OMOCAT, MILKBBI, and Aymmy displays at MARUQ in the New People building at San Francisco's Japantown.

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  • The OMOCAT, MILKBBI, and Aymmy displays at MARUQ in the New People building at San Francisco's Japantown.
  • A T-shirt and accesories by MILKBBI at MARUQ.

Wallis’ clothing brand has recently been displayed in a pop-up shop at MARUQ, a quaint boutique located inside the New People building in Japantown. MILKBBI has been featured at MARUQ alongside OMOCAT and the kawaii accessory line punimelt, by self-proclaimed “internet majokko artist” Michy Soong.

Soong of punimelt got involved with MARUQ after meeting an employee of the anime streaming site Crunchyroll, whom used to be an employee at MARUQ. Soong credits her inspiration in beginning her brand of accessories to her friends around her successfully creating clothing and accessories in the industry, and decided to try it on her own, and is even launching her first clothing line in Spring 2015. In terms of Akiba kei-esque fashion garnering popularity across the world, Soong thinks the internet made the trend possible.

“I think it’s because countless kids and adults from all over are connected through the internet,” says Soong. “It’s really easy to share images and ideas. It brings people together. I think that if people see things they like, they will definitely spread it. That’s why people are becoming more aware of Japanese-inspired fashion.”

Meanwhile, Brandon Reierson of Lactose Intoler-Art, a “mini line” of clothing in Japan, is an Oklahoma native living in Japan; he moved to Japan in January of 2013. While Wallis, OMO, and Soong are inspired by Japanese pop culture, Reierson is meanwhile inspired by Japanese street fashion itself.

“When I started Lactose Intoler-Art back around 2008 or so, most of my illustration work was very inspired by Japanese street fashion,” says Reierson. “Originally I drew a lot more people. People posed as if they were in the famous FRUiTS or TUNE magazine, waiting to be hunted by the next street-snapper. I think being inspired by the artistically creative outfits just naturally transformed into me making a mini line of clothing. All along, I’ve really found the idea of fashion as a means of personal artistic expression very fascinating. I would say that is the core of my work. Examining how art meets fashion, and all of the inspiration mixed in changes here and there.”

Reierson sees the rest of the internet’s view of the internet being slightly inaccurate, citing that the whole country is not what you would expect on the streets of Harajuku and Akihabara.

“The mainstream culture here is actually quite conservative, and the pressure for young people to succeed can be really intense,” says Reierson. “Perhaps fashion is a means of escape, creating a character for oneself, an armor, or maybe even just fun.”

Reierson believes the rapid usage of the Internet is instrumental to Japan’s street fashion scene, and its sui generis qualities.

“I think that the internet is extremely powerful,” says Reierson. “When I first started getting interested in Japanese street fashion, there wasn’t even half of the content online as there is now. It’s amazing how mainstream ‘subcultural’ looks can be widely recognized and named online now by so many people… What’s interesting now though, is a lot of the kids here in Tokyo are looking outside for inspiration, and even Tumblr as well. Of course there is always a lot going on here, Tokyo is huge. To put it all in one bubble would be crazy.”

While Reierson draws inspiration from people, 1990s Nickelodeon nostalgia, and the Internet, he is also thankful of his chance to liv e his dream as an artist in Japan.

“I honestly wake up early often, just naturally, because I’m so ready to start the day and get working on my stuff,” says Reierson. “I think that’s when you know you’re living your dream.”



All photos by Lorisa Salvatin except punimelt pins photo, by Michy Soong.

A look into Queer Women’s Fashion

 one of her and a student in one of her classes
Kelly Reddy-Best takes a look at a student’s piece in one of her classes. (Photo courtesy of Kelly Reddy-Best)

A woman’s appearance has been shown in studies to be one of the top indicators of stress in their daily life. Women tend to pick at all the layers that compose their appearance: their clothing choices, body type, and how their overall style represents them in the outside world. So what if on top of the many layers that the average women is concerned with there was an added coating of sexual orientation?

Fashion designer, scholar, activist, and professor at SF State, Kelly Reddy-Best has immersed herself into the inter-workings of a self-identified, queer woman’s outlook on her appearance through fashion.

“I’m interested in understanding how people experience clothing—clothing identity and experience—and how an individual’s identity influences their experiences in the world. I’m particularly interested in minority populations—populations that are stigmatized — where they experience something negative,” explains Reddy-Best on why she began this research.

The Oregon State graduate began working on this study, which was published in the International Journal of Fashion Design, Education and Technology, in October of this year with her partner and co-author Elaine L. Pederson. They conducted interviews with twenty women, ages ranging from eighteen to thirty-five, who identified themselves as openly queer.

“The women had to identify as female, even if they were transsexual, and they also had to self identify as queer and be out with their sexual orientation because if somebody is not out or hasn’t explored their sexuality they are going to have a different experience,” shares Reddy-Best.

Reddy-Best stands with a colleague after winning an award for a study done on the same subject matter. (Photo courtesy of Kelly Reddy-Best)
Reddy-Best stands with a colleague after winning an award for a study on clothing identity.  (Photo courtesy of Kelly Reddy-Best)

The qualitative-style research lasted two weeks, in which the women had to write daily in diaries about their experiences and how negatively stressed, on a level of one to five, they felt on daily basis due to their experience with their appearance and fashion choices.

“I was really looking for everyday experiences, not blatant discriminations, but everyday feelings of ‘oh I feel uncomfortable’ but you’re still going to go to work but are just unsure about how you feel,” the apparel and merchandising professor says.

The study, which was part of Reddy-Best’s dissertation for her master’s degree from Oregon State, was one of curiosity and a passion to create equality through her many avenues of work.

“I want equality, and as a professor that’s something I can do. I have the ability and the time to think about these things and to show that when you do a study and back it up, you can show people that it is actually happening and that its not just a stereotype,” Reddy-Best declares.

Almost all of the participants in the study had felt a shift in their appearance when they had first came out and most of them wanted to appear overtly queer to the public. Reddy-Best shares that her participants and many members of the LGBT community feel held back because of how they feel they should look and dress.

The study also highlights how different every-day experiences are for queer women compared to heterosexual women, especially in the work place.

“Some women wanted to be identifiable to other queer women, some would just wear a rainbow bracelet to work or cut their hair. For others it would be in the layers of clothing; someone would just wear men’s boxers and it wasn’t necessarily because people would see but because they knew they were wearing it,” the New Jersey native discloses about her participant’s strides to express their sexual orientation through their fashion choices.

Everybody has different layers that could be incorporated to their appearance like race, class, gender, and sexual orientation, which might cause distress in your daily life; for some of the participants in the study they had multiple, conflicting layers – some women were queer and African American, which created additional tension in both their personal and professional life.

At the end of the two-week trial, Reddy-Best and Pederson organized follow-up interviews, where they went over the daily diary entries and pictures the participants had taken and helped them understand what triggered the level of stress they felt on that particular day.

Reddy-Best hopes to keep studying the history of fashion and dress and understanding how and why people wear things. Her second study, which focused on queer women’s shopping experiences and how they identify their style, was submitted to the International Textile and Apparel Association Conference in North Carolina in early November.


Faded Finds: a mobile fashion boutique

San Francisco residents invade Dolores Park every weekend to soak up the sun (when it is around) and visit with friends. Vendors sell jewelry, soap and crafts from small booths or vehicles lining the park.

On a recent Sunday, a large Dodge van was parked alongside the grass at Dolores—and inside was something radder than hand-made necklaces and rosemary soap.

Faded Finds is a mobile vintage clothing store, owned by two young entrepreneurs, Dayna Carter and Dennis Long. Vintage T-shirts, dress shirts, coats, pants, and shoes filled the seats and back of their van. Outside, an awning shaded the variety of handpicked clothes. The apparel ranged from casual muscle tanks and baggy windbreakers, to collared dress shirts.

And the trendy threads got attention—many walking through Dolores stopped at the stand to peruse the racks.

Carter, twenty-four, and Long, twenty-three, launched the mobile business because they wanted change.

They were tired of menial part-time jobs. So about a month ago, the fashion enthusiasts bought a Dodge Van and started something they were not sure would work.

Long, twenty-three, is from Napa, while Carter, twenty-four, hails from Riverside. The two met years ago at and decided that life was too short to not reach for something they wanted.

Instead of waiting for careers to pan out, the two took to the road, visiting vintage stores everywhere they could find them.  Currently, they sell mostly men’s clothing, but hope to expand it to all genders soon. The pair has done two mobile tours since purchasing the Dodge, and  is experimenting with social media to grow clientele.

They plan to be in the Bay Area quite often when they have the time, to keep up the mobile shop and purchase new clothing from bigger vintage stores. Long and Carter are not sure if the business will be a gold-mine, but they are excited to see where it goes.

Starting a business, however small, can be extremely daunting. Watch the video below to hear what advice these young adults have for anyone afraid to take a chance.



Keeping the blue, green

Bags hanging on the wall at Mafia Bag's Richmond store. The Argetina-based startup is beginning to produce bags made of recycled watersport materials in San Francisco. (Ryan Leibrich / Xpress Magazine)
Bags hanging on the wall at Mafia Bag’s Richmond store. The Argetina-based startup is beginning to produce bags made of recycled watersport materials in San Francisco. (Ryan Leibrich / Xpress Magazine)

What do you think about when you see a kitesurfer, windsurfer, or sailor on the water?

Do you pause for a moment to marvel at their athletic prowess?

Do you wonder how they are able to remain upright on the fickle body of water that is the ocean?

Do you become saddened by the realization that they are engaged in a physical activity that you will probably never be able to do?

You probably wonder all of those things and more—but do you ever wonder what becomes of those brightly colored sails and kites when nature, user-error, or even time renders them useless?

Enter the MAFIA Bags showroom on Clement Street in the Richmond, where Marcos Mafia, his sister Paz, and two employees are single-handedly tackling the waste problem that plagues the sail industry.

MAFIA Bags’ concept is simple: they take damaged and otherwise unusable sails and turn them into bags, backpacks, wallets, and other accessories, that often feature the distinct markings of the sails they came from. According to their website, for every thousand products made, sixty-one sails will be recycled.

Windsurf sails alone can cost up to $1,090, a high-price point for something that usually ends up sitting in a landfill, someone’s garage, or in the water once it’s unable to be used, according to Marcos.

“The funny thing is, you probably have thirty or forty companies making sails, but you have a single company which recycles them,” Marcos says as he thumbs through stacks of brightly colored sails waiting to be cut and turned into MAFIA products.

Marcos, a soft-spoken, twenty-five-year- old expatriate from Argentina, has been doing water sports since he was a self- described “little guy.” He started off sailing at eight-years-old in Buenos Aires, and soon found he wanted to try his hand at other water sports.

After realizing that wave quality at the river near his house was not ideal for surfing, he chose something that the ample wind in his region would lend a hand to: kitesurfing. He has been doing it for fun – and professionally for the last five years – ever since.

Marcos Mafia, Mafia Bags founder, shows a wall of potential bag designs. (Ryan Leibrich / Xpress Magazine)

Marcos Mafia, Mafia Bags founder, shows a wall of potential bag designs

Marcos’ lifelong affinity for the water has made him hypersensitive about the environmental impact of waste that ends up in the water. Polluted water in his native Argentina often made him sick if he accidentally ingested the tiniest bit of it. For him, MAFIA bags is a way to do his part to minimize human’s impact on water.

He goes out on weekends to collect sails that are ready to be retired. After big events, companies sometimes contact him to make use of their sails and banners—like Vans did after this year’s United States’ Open of Surfing.

“Since I was eight years old, I’ve been getting into the water and that made me really conscious about what happens when we throw stuff on the streets and throw away bottles,” he says. “Just being in touch with water from sports and it being something I really love just made it so that I wanted to know where things end up and where things come from.”

A few years ago, when Marcos found himself working for a number of the companies that also sponsored him, he realized that there was a need to be met in terms of bridging the gap between sail production and sail waste. He also realized something else: he does not like working for other people.

“I just realized I was really into [these] companies and that’s not what I wanted,” he says.

Taking the skills he learned about product development and the inner workings of running a small company, he decided to go into business for himself, and thus MAFIA Bags was born.

With an initial investment from a friend’s father and his sister Paz acting as the cofounder, Marcos started the company in 2011. With the help of their friends, they were able to build a name for themselves selling MAFIA products in their native Buenos Aires and across South America.

Last year, in an effort to break into a more international market, create jobs, and ensure that their production remained hands-on and transparent, the company decided to make the move to the United States.

With $26,000 raised from a Kickstarter campaign, they headed for San Francisco because of its large water sports community. It also helped that the city has a soft spot for “green” businesses.

“Just bringing the whole production to California was strange because people are used to hearing that things have been outsourced, but we are bringing it here,” says Marcos.

Instead of going the way of similar start-ups and other San Francisco-based bag companies and setting up shop in the increasingly hip Mission or South of Market neighborhoods, they renovated a formerly decrepit storefront in a mostly residential part of the Richmond district.

Bags hanging on the wall at Mafia Bag's Richmond store. The startup is beginning to produce bags made of recycled watersport materials produced in San Francisco. (Ryan Leibrich / Xpress Magazine)
A collection of Mafia’s vibrant bags.  The startup is beginning to produce bags made of recycled watersport materials produced in San Francisco. (Ryan Leibrich / Xpress Magazine)

While MAFIA bags would not be able to exist without kite and wind surfers and sailors, Marcos notes that MAFIA bags are for everyone.

“We’re not just focusing on people who sail or kitesurf. We’re focusing on people who like to feel the wind on their heads, people who like to ride bikes, people who like to go to see the view at Ocean Beach, and just go enjoy life as it is.”

For now, production is being handled by a local seamstress and tailor hired by Marcos, who comes up with the designs for the items. They cut all the sails by hand, then sew the pieces together and attach a MAFIA label. Prep for each bag takes about an hour and a half to complete.

“It’s a lot of work in a way but it’s like super rewarding,” says Marcos. “You don’t need to make another backpack that’s already on the market or another thing how everybody does it.”

The biggest challenge for MAFIA in San Francisco has been not having the same support of friends and family as the company had in Argentina, says Marcos. “It’s a whole new industry and world,” he says.

Lucky for him, if there is one thing San Francisco residents love, it is products that are made within the city limits. With companies like Chrome, Timbuktu, and Rickshaw Bags proudly boasting their “Made in San Francisco” credentials and arguably competing for the same clientele as MAFIA, finding their place in the sea of bag producers may prove to be difficult.

However, where some might see a challenge, Marcos chooses to look at competitors as colleagues instead of competition.