When I’m shopping for BellJar, I am at my best. I can skim through a rack and pull out that one perfect gem that will make a girl’s heart go aflutter. It’s like a sixth sense. But sometimes I get so inundated with the day-to-day aspects of running a business that I don’t get out as much as I would like to see what’s going on with local design.

I felt it was time to expand my knowledge of the San Francisco fashion scene and get newly inspired. I put the word out via Facebook, and scoured the design blogs looking for local talent. I quickly found at least 25 designers I would’ve loved to meet with, and then pared the list down to five fresh, innovative go-getters. A busy glam girl has only so much time in her schedule! I arranged meetings at their studios, and over the next few days we hung out and gabbed about fashion while I tried on pieces from their newest collections. In other words, a perfect couple of days.




Photographer Jen Siska and I hit up Zoë Hong’s place first. Her light-filled studio was a lot like her designs: clean, edgy, and incredibly comfortable. Her pieces are very wearable, made from soft fabrics like cotton and silk, but the leather accents add a rock ’n’ roll feel. Zoë got her degree from Otis College of Art and Design, and has been working in the field for about 10 years now. She says she likes to create clothing for the grown-up tomboy, but I felt like an elegant woman in her Stephanie Dress.


Next we headed over to North Beach to check out the Stars and Ravens line designed by Sarah Borruso. Sarah was trained at Parsons, but her style is San Francisco through and through. She’s inspired by quintessential moments in local history like the Summer of Love and the ’80s punk scene. She’s filtered these drastically different decades into a dark, rough aesthetic, although the clothes still feel sophisticated and feminine.


Nikki Garcia is a newcomer on the scene. She studied at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising and recently launched her debut line, First Rite. The small, focused collection is reminiscent of early ’90s fashion, with details like repetitive pleating and caged paneling. It also has a witchy, mystical feel that I really love. She describes her spring collection as being subtly provocative. I would agree. 


Camelia Skikos was recently named one of San Francisco’s “Hot 20 Under 40” by 7x7 magazine, and after seeing her craft up close, I can see why. Her strong, structured cuts fit beautifully, and her fabrics are rich and luxurious. I didn’t want to take off her Wool Loop Dress and immediately ordered one for myself. Most of her clothing is black and white, but she adds dashes of vibrant red and blue for dramatic effect. She has a long history of design, graduating from the University of Art in Romania, later moving to London to further her career, and eventually accepting a job as head designer at Levi Strauss. Camelia now focuses her talents on her own line while teaching at the Academy of Art University.


Ali Golden is reluctant to call herself a designer, as she currently
hand sews each garment, but she seems to be a genius on the brink.
Together with her business partner Sarah Tejada, Ali has turned a tiny
garage space in Hayes Valley into a public workshop and an unofficial
storefront called The Bull & the Bear. She can be found there daily,
sewing clothing and chatting with good friends who’ve stopped by. Ali
is another Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising graduate, and
she just might be on to something great.Bear-bottom


Looking for some local glamour? Check out Zoë Hong’s designs at The Factory in SOMA. Stars and Ravens can be found over at HELLO by Candystore Collective up in the Fillmore. Want to hang out with the maker herself? Find Ali Golden sewing and selling at The Bull & the Bear in Hayes Valley. 

First Rite by Nikki Garcia has been picked up by Villains Vault on Haight Street, and you can try out the lovely designs by Camelia Skikos at Wonderland SF. Also keep an eye on San Francisco blogs SF Indie Fashion (sfindiefashion.com) and Refinery29 for updates on local design, fashion events, and more.