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Friday, March 30, 2012

Fashion Incubator San Francisco Opens, Aiming to Propel Six Local Designers to Fame

Posted By on Fri, Mar 30, 2012 at 12:30 PM

KATE CONGER
  • Kate Conger

High above Union Square, a design workshop reminiscent of Project Runway has opened to its first batch of six designers. The Fashion Incubator San Francisco, located on the top floor of the Macy's men's building, aims to elevate the careers of the designers by giving them access to a sewing studio (equipped with machines from Macy's now-defunct alterations department), offices, a showroom, and a classroom where they will learn the business of fashion.

The incubator is part of a growing movement to revitalize San Francisco's fashion industry. Before our city was a haven to Internet startups, it was known for its garment manufacturing industry. Since the late 1990s, however, factories have disappeared -- the most notable departure was Levi Strauss & Co. from Valencia Street. Some local designers have begun revitalizing the industry by manufacturing their clothing here. Tellason, Turk + Taylor, and Nice Collective are three names on the list -- one that the six designers hope to join when the incubator ends next year.

The "starting six" are Justin Jamison, Tamara Jaric, Bethany Meuleners, Sabah Mansoor Husain, Tony Sananikone, and Paloma Von Broadley. Each represents a distinct point of view, but each is excited about the same thing -- and it might not be what you'd expect. It's not the sewing studio, private offices, or the glass-walled balcony overlooking the city. Rather, they most look forward to the weekly business seminars.

Although several hold MFAs from local institutions (Bethany Meuleners and Sabah Mansoor Husain from the Academy of Art University, and Paloma Von Broadley from California College of the Arts), they say their business education was lacking. (It's an art-school complaint we've heard often.) They have the skills they need to create gorgeous clothes, and they eagerly await the opportunity to learn how to launch and maintain a business.

Several face interesting challenges in the world of manufacturing. Tamara Jaric, a Serbian native who specializes in women's outerwear, draws images onto her coats by hand and sometimes hand-embroiders her pieces as well. She hopes to find a way to mass-produce her clothing while still giving it a hand-made feel. The local tech industry "inspires innovation" she says, and she is intrigued by the possibilities of combining fashion with technology.

Paloma Von Broadley focuses on creating "slow fashion." One of her tactics is to create clothes without cutting away or wasting fabric. It involves sewing the excess into the garments so it can't be seen from the outside, a process she says she would have to teach to anyone manufacturing her garments.

Collaborators Bethany Meuleners and Sabah Mansoor Husain have a more complicated yet fascinating process. They work with knitwear but want to reimagine it "as a full fashion" rather than simply outerwear. Husain knits, felts, or crochets all the pair's textiles, while Meuleners takes responsibility for construction. The results are gorgeous gowns filled with jewels that can weigh as much as 40 pounds.

Now the work begins. Each designer hopes to produce a Spring 2013 collection, which would probably be shown this fall in accordance with the typical fashion calendar. Watch for them over the next few years -- they could be among the next big names in local fashion.

Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF, follow Kate Conger at @kateconger, and like us on Facebook.

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About The Author

Kate Conger

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Kate Conger has written for SF Weekly since 2011.

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