In Lan Jaenicke's Jackson Square atelier, the designer spins Buddhist sensibility into utmost elegance
San Francisco fashion designer Lan Jaenicke, at home with her Chinese calligraphy. (Anthony Perliss)

In Lan Jaenicke's Jackson Square atelier, the designer spins Buddhist sensibility into utmost elegance


Elegant and cool. Quiet and intriguing. Simple and intentional. This jumble of thoughts ran through my head when I first spied Lan Jaenicke’s newest collection dancing down the runway.

They’re the same exact thoughts I had later that evening when I officially met the clothing’s creator; she was soft-spoken, red-lipped, and effortlessly chic in white. If ever a designer embodied her brand, Ms. Jaenicke did.

Said fashion show took place in the San Francisco designer’s Jackson Square atelier this spring. A packed house of clients, friends, and myriad stylish types showed their approval for all 32 looks (and the two amazing models) with an enthusiastic, extended round of applause.

The magical, brick-walled atelier, filled with French and Chinese antiques, is worthy of celebration in its own right. It serves as both a workshop—where Jaenicke’s small team of expert tailors sew and fit customers—and a shop-shop where the label’s sumptuous coats, cashmere knits, silk dresses, and effortless trousers can be purchased. The 1,500-square-foot space also has historic roots: It was the site of Ghirardelli’s original chocolate factory, circa 1857.

Beijing-born Jaenicke, who graduated from Academy of Art University in 2005 with an MFA in fashion, merchandising and design, has another boutique, Maison Lan Jaenicke, on Sacramento Street in Presidio Heights, not far from the Architectural Digest–worthy home she shares with her teenage son and her partner, winemaker Anthony Perliss.

Maison Lan Jaenicke on Sacramento Street. (Katie Jones)

Fourteen years on, some of the designer’s first pieces—100 percent cashmere coats and jackets—are still hallmarks of her collection. (The now-shuttered Jackson Square boutique Eden & Eden was the first to sell—and sell out—the Lan Jaenicke label.)

“Cashmere is still the foundation of the brand. From the beginning I decided to use 100 percent cashmere, not a blend. I wanted to have a brand that’s the real deal. It’s not about a big name but more about the product. I wanted to focus on the materials, the cut, the construction, and pieces that are really flattering to a woman’s body,” Jaenicke explains.

Mission accomplished. Over the years, Lan Jaenicke has attracted a loyal following among those seeking timeless pieces—modern blouses that skew demure, classic skirts with unconventional twists, and elegant jackets—with impeccable details in natural fabrics (silk, wool, linen, and cotton along with cashmere). Her clientele includes such Bay Area style-setters as interior designer Catherine Kwong, painter Caroline Lizarraga, and creative director Meredith Peck.

“I would describe my aesthetic as clean and minimal. I don’t put on anything that is unnecessary—so everything is essential. There’s got a be a point to why you need the button. I studied math, and I always have this in my head. I want to simplify things, solve problems. I design this way, too. Like, what’s necessary to achieve the look I want. I like to do subtractions, getting down to the bare bones of what supports the silhouette,” says Jaenicke.

In other words, Jaenicke has been in her quiet-luxury era since day one.

When not designing, bookkeeping or training employees—her business is self-funded and she does it all sans an assistant—she enjoys spending time with her family, including her parents who live nearby. Indulging in various artistic and contemplative pursuits like Chinese calligraphy, painting, writing poetry and meditation are also integral to Jaenicke’s life.

“I'm a Buddhist and I really live in that philosophy of being humble. It's all about emptiness and kind of like living within yourself, being self-directed. I feel like what brings me joy and peace is that essence, that simplicity,” Jaenicke says.

(Ivy Rose)

Column Dress from Series No. 23.

Series No. 23.

From the start, Jaenicke used numbers, not clever names, to denote her collections. This is not surprising when you learn she possesses a math degree from University College London. Also, not her thing? Following a strict fashion calendar. Rather, she drops fresh collections according to her own creative rhythms.

“Sometimes I do two collections a year, sometimes I just do one. It depends on what’s going on. I chose this path because I wanted to have the freedom to create something that’s more authentic."

Case in point: her just-released Series No. 23.

“2024 is the Year of the Dragon, which is my year, so I decided to make this collection a tribute to my Chinese heritage,” she says. “I also chose to use only black and white, which I've never done before. I added a gold element for the dragon. With two colors, it's really fun and you can be really creative and experimental,” she adds.

And experiment she did…with a custom print, not typically part of her repertoire. “I created a houndstooth print because I have always loved that pattern, such a classic. I also wanted it to be 3D and wound up doing stripes and pleating to create movement and optical illusions,” Jaenicke says.

The black-and-white houndstooth print on silk crepe de chine, known for its beautiful drape, is surely the star of the show. It takes various forms on dresses, skirts and blouses—none more breathtaking than the designer’s favorite: the hand-pleated column dress.

“I wanted something that was very statuesque, like a stunner; but at the same time, very simple. It’s all in the textures. When the hand-stitched pleats are flat, you see just the blackness and when you move, the houndstooth comes through,” Jaenicke says.

If that’s not enough, the dress is also reversible, allowing the wearer to emphasize either the houndstooth pattern or the black stripes. Other Jaenicke trademarks like zero-waste design and a one-size fit (thanks to an adjustable tie in back) are also part of the package.

Certainly, there are many non-houndstooth standouts in the collection. A couple of favorites: the wear-everywhere crop cashmere jacket, which had us at the patch pockets, and the utterly romantic-with-an-edge poet shirt that features raw selvedge detail. But the piece that left the biggest impression was actually an accessory, the reversible silk organza ribbon cloche. Initially, the exaggerated bonnet-like silhouette gave, err, handmaid vibes. But, quickly, thoughts of Gilead disappeared…and full-blown obsession set in. (Praise be.)

While fangirling over the hat to Jaenicke, a self-confessed introvert, she shared that its inclusion in the show was iffy: “I just made it from [fabric] scraps,” she says. “I liked that it hid my eyes, since I am not that social of a person.”

But once she took it out for a test run, the cloche’s fate was sealed. Jaenicke explains: “I wore it to Safeway, to The Container Store, the doctor’s office, and everywhere I went people were like ‘oh my god, I love your hat.’”

“Then and there, I knew it was going to be in the show—and shoppable online,” she smiles.

// Visit Atelier Lan Jaenicke at 431 Jackson St. (Jackson Square) and Maison Lan Jaenicke at 3307 Sacramento St. (Presidio Heights),

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