San Francisco in a Nutshell: We’re Not a Fashion-Forward City and That’s OK

Photo via Everlane

Photo via Everlane

It’s unusual to spot someone in San Francisco wearing daring designs. There are, of course, exceptions. Philanthropists Norah and Norman Stone love their capital-f Fashion. Chrisa Pappas is a regular at Fashion Weeks around the world. But most Bay Area residents, even the ones who wear designer labels, tend to stick with safe and pretty looks. And that’s quite alright. Rothy’s Creative Director Erin Lowenberg even argues that it’s part of our design DNA.

“We’re not a fashion-forward city and that’s OK, but we’ve dug into creativity through innovation and that’s just as beautiful,” Lowenberg told Women’s Wear Daily.

WWD calls Lowenberg part of the “new creative class” in San Francisco—a group of companies including Rothy’s, Everlane, and ThirdLove that’s less interested in chasing trends and more focused on meeting shopper’s needs in practical ways. For Rothy’s, that means producing attractive, sustainably-made washable shoes. At Everlane, it’s offering elevated basics with a transparent supply chain. At ThirdLove, it’s matching women with bras that actually fit.

High fashion struggles to grow and compete with fast fashion knockoffs, and fast-fashion is having a moment of reckoning with sales slowing down, but direct-to-consumer fashion brands out of San Francisco are thriving. While the designs coming out of Bay Area companies are unlikely to wind up on the cover of Vogue, they’re a hit with customers who want comfortable, ethically-made goods.

“If we tried to do something high-fashion, it wouldn’t resonate,” said Birdies creative director Jacqueline Nasser. “We don’t sacrifice comfort; everybody knows that about San Francisco.”

With multiple unicorns emerging from the region—like Stitch Fix, Allbirds, and The Real Real—WWD suggests that San Francisco could be the next fashion capital, as unlikely as that may sound. To read more about why, check out the full report on (subscription required).