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Talking with Trina Turk (Plus, Meet Her this Week)

Best known for her bright and bold Southern California style, designer Trina Turk has watched as her company has grown over the last 15 years from a business run out of her home to household name that includes women’s apparel, swimwear, home accessories, handbags and – most recently – a jewelry line. In town this week for appearances at Macy’s Union Square and the 84th Annual Junior League Fashion Show Gala, Turk dishes about her love of vintage jewelry, San Francisco style, spring must-haves and what she wishes she had known when she started out.

Tell us about your new jewelry line.

I’ve been collecting vintage jewelry for 25 years, 30 years. We started to use the vintage collection as inspiration for more unique swimwear hardware. And it actually became one of the signatures of our swimwear line, which has been in existence for four years now….And at one point we were like, why aren’t we doing jewelry? That’s literally where it came from.

Most of it is pretty bold jewelry. It’s not delicate little chains. It’s like our prints. It’s bold and graphic. Some of the necklaces can be a statement piece that can really pull an outfit together.

What are your favorite vintage jewelry styles?

In the 80’s, I was really into Mexican silver. More recently I’ve been into Scandinavian modernist jewelry….I also have a soft spot for sort of gaudy 70’s pendants. I just love the boldness of some of those pieces.

What do you think about San Francisco style?

I always forget how cold it is in San Francisco, even though I am up there multiple times per year it is always a little chillier than you think it’s going to be. A San Franciscan needs to have a little more cold weather wear in their wardrobe than somebody in Southern California. I think that San Francisco is also less of a car culture. I think that you have to be more sensible about what kind of shoes you are wearing. I see San Francisco as being more bundled up and layered than Los Angeles.

Color is a focal point of your designs. What style advice can you offer to women who may not be as accustomed to wearing lots of color?

The easy way to start is to buy a printed bag and wear it with a black dress. If it’s going to freak you out to wear a brightly printed dress, then start with an accessory, a scarf.

What must-have items are on your list for spring?

For this spring, I think a shorter short is something that’s really important, I’m talking above mid-thigh. A lot of people are wearing them with tights even now that it’s cooler. It looks good with a blazer. You can wear it with flats for a more casual thing or wear it with heels.

Pleated pants that taper down and end above your ankle bone. Everyone’s got their skinny jeans now, and it’s kind of an evolution of the pant. The slouchy fuller through the hip and tapered through the ankle are a fresh thing.

What excites you the most about the fashion world today?

I think that the most exciting thing is that there are great looks available at all price points. For a consumer, I think it’s ideal. You have this huge choice of how you want to dress and what you want to look like and how much you want to pay for it.

What do you know now about the fashion industry that you wish you had known when you started your company?

The thing that I’ve really realized in the last year is that I am glad I started when I started. It would be much more difficult to start out now. I started with minimal funding in a spare bedroom of my house. It’s a rare store that is going to risk as lot of their budget on something that is brand new, so consequently, I think it would be very, very difficult to be starting a business now.

I’ve learned to sort of go with my instinct and stick with who we are as a brand and not try and pretend that we’re something other than who we are. We sell women’s contemporary sportswear at a certain price point….If the trend is all black, we can’t really do that trend. We have to stick to who we are.

Any favorite Bay Area places you’d like to recommend?

I was actually born in San Francisco, and I grew up in San Jose. The one place I went to any many times as a child was Point Lobos National Park near Carmel. At the time, I don’t actually think I appreciated it, and, when I’ve gone there more recently, it’s amazing and gorgeous.

I kind of like the cliché stuff. I like to walk to Golden Gate Bridge, even though I’ve done it a million times, and all those really steep streets are kind of fun. That’s what San Francisco is to me: the bridge, the streets, the architecture. I think the architecture is really interesting in San Francisco.

One of the stores I like to visit when we’re there is Monument. There’s actually a vintage clothing sale this weekend, and I’m definitely going to go check that out.

Want to spot Trina in person? You’re in luck. She’ll be appearing at the 84th Annual Junior League Fashion Show Gala events on Friday. Tickets are available here. On Saturday, Turk makes an appearance at Macy’s Union Square to show off her spring 2010 collection, handbags and jewelry line. Shoppers who spend $150 or more receive a free gift. The event takes place at 4 p.m. on level three. To attend, RSVP to 800-786-2665.