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Vogue's Sally Singer: SF Style and Her Favorite Local Shops

San Francisco fashion fans are in for a rare treat tomorrow night, when Vogue Features Director Sally Singer shares her thoughts on the relevance of fashion and fashion magazines in the midst of an out-of-wack economy during Commonwealth Club INFORUM event Why Fashion Still Matters.

This morning, we caught up with Singer, who had already walked clear across town – from Market Street to the edge of the Presidio – by the time we’d finished our morning coffee. Read on for Singer’s take on San Francisco style, fashion blogging, her favorite San Francisco shops and what she wishes people would do more often with fashion.

So what brings you to town, other than the Commonwealth Club’s INFORUM event?

I’m here working on a story for Vogue. It coincided with my being out here.

Any special places in San Francisco you plan to visit while you’re here?

Right now, I’m at the Exploratorium, which I love.

I’m staying at the Four Seasons, and I actually got up this morning, and I walked to the Exploratorium. I always, when I come to the city, essentially walk the whole city. Not the whole city, but the Nob Hill, Russian Hill and Marina area. I used to live on O’farrell. I got up at 6 a.m. and started heading out, just to confirm everything is still there.

When did you live in San Francisco?


A long time ago, actually, in 1987 or 88 maybe, I lived here. I sort of grew up in Oakland...I’ve always been around. I took classes at A.C.T. when I was a kid and would take BART by myself to Powell Street and from the train [station] to Geary Street and in the whole Union Square area, I would know every business, even when I was nine or 10.  I’ve spent most of my life sort of mapping the city. It changes and yet it stays the same.

So that makes you in an even better position to comment on San Francisco and fashion. Is there a San Francisco style?

I think San Francisco is a city in which people, many people, most people who would be your readers, have chosen to live in for lifestyle reasons, and by lifestyle I mean, the kind of sports they can play from here and the coffee they drink. I would think fashion is not the highest thing on the list for most of them.

I think most people in San Francisco want to have a stylish life more than a fashion-related lifestyle. They like softer clothes, layered clothes and season-less clothes, because San Francisco is a season-less place. That said, there are fantastic purveyors of fashion in San Francisco. Do you know Modern Appealing Clothing in Hayes Valley? There are very fashion forward stores here. That’s a great store. You can buy great fashion in San Francisco, but I think for people here, it’s not the thing they’ve predicated their identity on that they might have in other cities.

I love the vintage culture here. You can find that kind of quintessentially Americana clothing. When swing culture got really big, San Francisco’s vintage world made a lot of sense. La Rosa on Haight might be my favorite vintage store here, if you want to find things that are of quintessentially American with a touch of kitsch.

What role do you think fashion blogs play today?

I’m not super astute with reading blogs, period. I’m not someone who spends a lot of their life online, which is probably age and having children. I think [blogging] increases the enthusiasm for fashion.

The urge to blog is not an urge that I have, but I understand that others do. There’s so much information out there, I don’t know how people keep track of it all.

What are the greatest challenges for the fashion industry in today’s current climate, especially with the economy as it is?

All of us are trying to figure out a way to live in a world in which things are changing in ways we could have predicted, should have predicted, but didn’t anticipate. I think people are trying to figure out how to adjust their lifestyles, expectations, budgets to changing realities.

I think the challenge fashion faces specifically for itself is for designers. It’s how they structure their business. I think it’s a very challenging time to be a designer and figure out the scale of business that makes sense, and I think the old structures are changing.

I think in terms of how this reflects on the consumer, fashion is in kind of good place, because people are more interested in fashion than ever. The consumer is so sophisticated now. If it’s the right thing and it’s fairly priced and pushes the look somewhere new, there’s a customer out there in this country and abroad who will buy it. You have a consumer that understands that fashion is about developing their own sense of style. That makes fashion so much more interesting for everyone involved, and it pushes designers to make more special pieces.

I hope what comes out of all the changes that have gone on is that people figure out for themselves where value lies, that they buy things that are the right things for them and the right things for the world.

Great fashion isn’t just a kind of luxury or marginal endeavor. I think great style pushes the imagination forward and pushes all sorts of buttons, and in good times and in bad we need imagination. We need great design. It helps us see a different and better future.

Great fashion can come from anywhere. I want people to dress more imaginatively. I want people to take more risks in how they present themselves.

The Commonwealth Club’s INFORUM program Why Fashion Still Matters: Vogue Features Director Sally Singer takes place Tuesday at 6 p.m. Tickets are $12 for members, $20 for non-members and $7 for students.