Jake Wall Serves Custom Clothing With a Twist of Local Charm
While San Francisco takes its commitment to California casual seriously, there's still room for a fancy suit or two in most locals' wardrobes. Take a walk around Union Square, and you can visit any of the bold face brands that you would expect to find on the backs of Wall Street types. But for a truly local, custom experience, those in the know know to visit Jake.
Jake (the brand) launched in 2012 as Artful Gentleman. In the early days, designer Jake Wall and his business partner Nathan Johnson set up shop in Wall's loft on Harrison Street, and later on the second floor of the McRoskey Mattress Company on Market Street. It was an unusual arrangement—customers had to walk through the mattress store to ascend a staircase to the studio—but it worked for the suiting startup.
In 2016, Jake's expanded crew moved into comparatively palatial new digs in Jackson Square, where they now call Isabel Marant, Pia, Shinola, and Theory their neighbors. The store serves as a showroom for the brand's ready-to-wear collection, and the design studio for custom apparel. All Jake pieces are sewn locally in San Francisco and come loaded with details. Those can include the contrast button-hole stitching, wild lining, exclusive textiles, or whimsical silhouettes. (Short suits and tuxedos are a thing at Jake, and they're spectacular.)
If you're looking for a suit or an evening gown for less than $500, Jake is beyond your budget. (There are ready to wear pieces in that price range, but custom starts in the four-figure territory.) If you have the resources and you enjoy making a statement with your clothes, Wall will whip up a look to turn heads, start conversations, and make you feel your best. "No matter what you might be looking for in life, don’t cheat yourself," he says. "We only get one life after all."
Rockyt: How would you describe your shop?
Jake: We see our shop as an experience—one that is constantly reinventing itself—and we strive for it to be as much a social center as it is a place for shopping. We love what we do. We love what we make. Our shop is meant to be the embodiment of that love translated into something that looks and feels like living your best life luxury.
Rockyt: Why did you decide to open a store?
Jake: We opened our first iteration of JAKE in 2012 as part of our mixed used workspace and evolved that over the years into a true retail experience based shop. The evolution has been measured and very carefully curated: in our shop, even the details have details.
Rockyt: What’s the best thing about owning your own shop?
Jake: The stress. Oh wait, you asked the best thing. Putting all kidding aside, the best part of being an independent brand with our own experience-based space is that we have created an environment in which our team is really challenged to live by the statement, "If you can think it up… then it is possible." This allows us to really strive to do that which feels fresh, feels new, feels engaging in ways that so many brands are—dare I say—too scared to even think of.
Rockyt: What’s the hardest part of doing business in San Francisco?
Jake: We are a busy town that is filled with people that use convenience as a crutch. We don’t like to travel far, we like things brought to us. San Franciscans develop great "bubbles" in which they live and if you are inside the "bubble"… you are golden. But getting inside a client’s bubble—since space is incredibly limited—is a hard fought battle and there are far too many things jockeying for spots from the newest fitness craze to festivals to community activities to new "it" neighborhoods.
Rockyt: Tell me about your day.
Jake: I get up daily at 5 am. I have about 30 mins of "thinking time" in which I run through what I think my day should be like in an effort to be my most effective. I have really come to use this time as a check—in which I actually reflect on how my day ran off the rails the day before because of X or Y—and try to come up with ways I can prevent that from happing in the future.
By 5:30 am, the dogs are game for morning walk and I don’t like to keep them waiting. By 6 am, the dogs get fed and I do the morning grooming ritual and am out the door to work usually by 7 am and in the office at 7:45. 8 am to 10 am are reserved for me to try and be there to support my team members in whatever ways I can: meetings, check-ins, or just being their "doer" to something they are leading. By 10 am, I am with my first client of the day, and from 10 am to 6 pm I alternate between client fittings and StyleSessions as well as running the quality assurance side of our product making and finishing.
At 6 pm, it’s wrapping up and lights out at the showroom and walking the dogs home. I grab a quick bite, an invigorating shower, set aside one hour to accomplish one person chore—whatever that may be, from laundry to paying bills—and then I either head out to an event to represent the company and the brand, or manage a little bit of down time at home while getting a jump start on work. This puts me in to comfy clothes around midnight. I usually read WWD and a maybe a comic book or two, and find myself drifting to sleep around 1 am… to get right back up around 5 am and get back at it.
Rockyt: There are lots of thought pieces right now about how shoppers are craving unique experiences. What makes your store experience unique?
Jake: I can't give away the milk for free; then no one will want to buy the cow. That said, we look for things that excite us. We look for things that stand out as unique. We also seek to ensure that everything we do is about a moment or set of moments. [We] don’t attempt to stretch that out, but instead relish in making that "fleeting." For us, our clothing is all about style and is perennial and should be as good on day one as it is a year or two later. Our experiences are trendy, fleeting, and incredibly dynamic— changing as frequently as one should change his or her underwear. It creates a nice juxtaposition.
Rockyt: What’s one thing a customer can find at your shop that he/she is unlikely to find anywhere else in SF?
Jake: Customer service that is rooted in education and connection. We truly endeavor to foster an experience in which you feel not like you are shopping, but in which you are spending time with friends.
Rockyt: What do you do on your days off?
Jake: Every Sunday I go to the movies: the first matinee of the day at the local movie theater. It is a tradition I had with my dad when I was a kid. We had to go to the movies every Sunday, no excuses accepted. It was something my dad loved because he called the movie-going experience the "great connector" in which a bunch of people who might normally do nothing but judge and fight each other will sit together in a dark space and stare up to the bright screen and laugh and cry and otherwise just live vicariously together for a few hours without worrying about that which so often divides us or tears us apart. My dad passed away some years ago, but I still maintain this tradition as a bit of an homage. I go every Sunday, just for him… and for me too.
Rockyt: Show some love for fellow small businesses. Not including your store, what are your three favorite shops in SF/the Bay Area?
Jake: Isotope Comics and the entire experience lead by shop owner James Sime is quite simply the best. Robin McRoskey and the McRoskey family still know how to do it best with McRoskey Mattress Co. You spend a third of your life in bed… do it in style and in a true SF made way. And, around the corner from JAKE, there is a great little bar and eatery by the name of Aventine. These guys to a nice job and haven’t forgotten that, when it comes to the hospitality business, what people look for first and for most is exactly that: hospitality. The fact that they marry it with a very reliable cocktail menu and a great mix of satisfying bites makes it all the better. Particularly in our sometimes-neglected Jackson Square area.