How Bazaar: Paloma Is Filled With One-of-a-Kind Wonders
Laureano Faedi looks like someone Scott Schuman would photograph for The Sartorialist. He layers with aplomb, he wears jaunty hats, he casually sports vintage-style Japanese fisherman's smocks, and his jeans are perfectly cuffed to show off his leather sneakers.
While Faedi may have the makings of a street style star, he's more interested in creating beautiful things that will last a lifetime. Inside Paloma, his Hayes Valley shop, you'll find him making leather bags and jewelry. And these aren't pieces that customers retire after a season. "I think everybody is so used to going to a chain store and getting something to use for six months and then moving on to the next thing," he said. "I tell my customers, buy a bag from me that you're going to use for the rest of your life. Don't buy it for a trend."
Faedi's bags are made from combinations of leather or canvas, and some have accents like 1950s Italian camo or World War II pup tents, so you're unlikely to stumble upon someone else with the exact same piece. He hand-sews the leather at Paloma, and takes care of his canvas-sewing projects with an industrial machine in his home. If bags aren't your thing, Faedi also carries lots of vintage items that he picks up while traveling the world with his wife. (Recent trips yielded finds like Italian army espresso cups and Japanese dolls.)
Read on to learn more about the unique pieces Laureano creates and sources for Paloma, and how he spends his time outside the store.
Rockyt: Is Paloma your first store?
Laureano: I do a t-shirt line called Gangs of San Francisco, which we sell in the store now. And, weirdly enough, I had a shop at 66 Gough down the street. That was just for those shirts. It was a very tiny shop.
Rockyt: Where did the name come from?
Laureano: We kept trying to come up with names for the store. It was a different line, so we wanted to do a neutral name. I was at the Alameda Flea Market. I saw a street sign that said Paloma, and I jokingly said to my wife, “Screw it I'm going to buy that sign and hang it outside." She looked at it and said, “That's not a bad name.” Everybody I ran it by liked it. I get tons of people that come in and say, “My kid’s name Paloma. When are you going to make t-shirts? So I probably need to make t-shirts.
Rockyt: How long has Paloma been in Hayes Valley?
Laureano: A little over two years.
Rockyt: What inspired you to open the shop?
Laureano: I’m always making stuff. The store was a good way to have an outlet for that. At first, we were going to name it Gangs of San Francisco, but then we decided to expand. My friend Jess, who does the jewelry, shared the shop before with someone who was doing vintage clothing, but she moved away, and I was already selling them my bags. She asked if I would be interested.
Rockyt: How would you describe Paloma?
Laureano: Even I have a hard time with it. It's almost like an extension of my house. Because I spend more time here than anywhere else, the stuff I sell is the stuff that I usually surround myself with in my in my day to day life. There's no rhyme or reason. I can't say it's an accessories shop or a clothing shop.
Rockyt: What's the best thing about owning your own business?
Laureano: Since it's not just my retail spot, but my workshop, I can make anything. And most of the stuff is stuff that I want for myself. And then I curate everything in the store from the point of view of things that I like or that my wife likes and we have around us. The leather and wood jewelry started because my wife wanted leather jewelry. She’s a professional. She has to dress up for work. So we started because of doing the jewelry for her. I think the best part is being able to be creative and being able to have an outlet that I can survive off of.
Rockyt: On the flip side, what's the hardest part?
Laureano: I’m constantly having to be on top of promoting it. The location is great for a drive-by traffic, but it’s not really a pedestrian street. So as much as I would like to sit here and tinker away and make stuff, I have spent a large portion of that time also online—Instagram, Facebook.
Rockyt: What makes Paloma a unique experience for San Francisco shoppers?
Laureano: So many people come in and say, “This type of place doesn’t exist in San Francisco anymore.” I'm surprised by how many people mention that. And I understand that the rents are insane, the cost of living is insane. I'm like a lot of independent shop owners; I feel like I'm like two days away from being evicted because of the rising rent. I think what I offer that’s unique is that you can come in and you're talking to the person who is going to make the item or who sourced the item. You can get something made specifically for you. Most of the stuff that I sell here has a story to tell, and I can tell it.
Rockyt: Do you do custom orders?
Laureano: I do. That’s also one of the great parts of being here and being able to make stuff. My main thing that I work on is the leather stitch bags. They are all completely hand-stitched. I've had customers come back three years later with a bag, and I almost want to do a buy-back program. Every time I’ve made bags for myself, I end up selling them. What I think is really cool is that if I make two identical bags and give them to two different people, two years down the line those two bags are going to look totally different depending on what clothing they were being rubbed against.
Rockyt: What's your average day like?
Laureano: Usually I get up around 7 am and have coffee with my wife. She goes off to work. I tinker online. I’m constantly on Ebay, I’m on different military sites to see what kind of old stuff I can find. Clothing is really easy to find, but if you want a roll of 1950s Italian camo fabric, you need to look for it. I usually take my dog for a walk. He’s always with me. And then I get over here and start making stuff. The full hides I cut into bags, so I do that at my house. I really enjoy doing it, even when I'm at home. I’m constantly thinking or experimenting with stuff.
Rockyt: Do you ever take days off?
Laureano: We're closed Sunday and Monday, but I don't feel like it’s work. On Saturday, my wife will be here. People come in. Everybody's hanging out. It's a day away from the shop, but I don’t look at it like a day off. A lot of times, I'll be home working. I don't have my main sewing machine here for the canvas bags. I’ll make those on my day off. We live near the ocean, so I'll be surfing. And I also fly. I do this thing called slope soaring: it's radio-controlled gliders that don't have engines. You kind of toss them off the side of a cliff. It’s basically like hang-gliding.
Other than your own store, name three favorite businesses in San Francisco.
I really like Tigerlily. To me perfume was always something that was factory made. I didn't think it was something that some guy made in small batches like that. AB Fits. It's a cool shop. It feels very homey. The other place I really love is Benkyodo in Japantown. They make mochi on the premise. Once they sell out, they sell out.
Paloma is located at 112 Gough Street in Hayes Valley. On Monday, November 20th from 4–8pm and Tuesday, November 21st from 2–8pm, the store is hosting two Japanese trunk shows: small batch dyed loop wheel garments from Tezomeya (Kyoto) and handmade smocks from Brown Tabby Works (Osaka). All the clothing is made in small numbers and only available during the trunk show. Arrive early for the best selection.