Thirteen years ago, as a newcomer both to the city of San Francisco and to the masthead of 7x7 (a print magazine at the time), I was assigned to produce our inaugural Style Council, a roundup of seven local tastemakers who were making waves in a range of creative fields.
There were up-and-comers—Sabrina Riddle, then the co-owner of Elizabeth Falkner's restaurant Orson (RIP), who was also dabbling in a fashion label—and icons, including event design guru Stanlee Gatti and the beloved retailer Wilkes Bashford who, like Orson, has also sadly left us. It was a snapshot of the city at the time.
Of course, trendsetters come and go, and sometimes they change course (Riddle went on to help launch the Mission-based eco-friendly haircare brand Madison Reed), but I'm certain of one thing: The fashion, design, and wellness mavens featured in this year's Style Council absolutely represent the Bay Area at this current moment. And whether their projects are everlasting or just for the now, they are emblematic of our society today—the one where Snapchat and Instagram rule and, happily, so do strong, creative, and persistent women.
That's right, this year's Style Council is bursting with femme power, and while it wasn't purposeful on our part, it wasn't totally an accident. Because in this age of the Women's March and #MeToo, women have stepped up and launched forward to share their ideas, rally their tribes, and manifest their goals—and here in the Bay Area, they're getting it done like gangbusters. So give them a round of applause (and also keep an eye on 7x7's Instagram for their very stylish takeovers this September). —Chloé Hennen
Bianca Gates and Marisa Sharkey, cofounders of Birdies
(Courtesy of Birdies)
Bianca Gates (left) and Marisa Sharkey, inside Birdies' Cow Hollow boutique.
Birdies founders Bianca Gates and Marisa Sharkey are flying high these days. You could hardly miss their stylish slippers-cum-flats popping off the pages of virtually every fashion glossy here and across the pond.
Granted, the fact that a certain duchess—who recently married a certain royal ginger—is a fan of the San Francisco brand has fueled its turn in the spotlight. But with a cult following, a beautiful Cow Hollow boutique, and a couple million in seed funding, Birdies success is no fluke.
Bottom line, it's really about the slippers themselves. They're comfy and luxurious, made to wear around the house and sturdy enough for the street, especially with the recent addition of a slightly thicker rubber heel. (Most pairs retail for $140.)
Birdies hatched three years ago when longtime friends Gates and Sharkey bonded over their inability to find slippers to wear while entertaining. "At the time, our only options were going barefoot, wearing socks, or worse—wearing ugly, frumpy slippers that went more with our pajamas than stylish outfits," Gates explains. "We were frustrated that nobody had solved this problem and being solution-oriented women, we decided to solve it together, once and for all," she adds.
Filling a void in the market doesn't happen overnight, but both women brought their complementary business skills (and $50,000 each) to the table. At the time, Gates was working as an ad sales exec at Facebook, and Sharkey, who has an MBA and worked in corporate strategy at Ross stores, had just relocated to Sacramento and was on the hunt for her next gig. The stars aligned, and in fairly short order a prototype slipper was made and the minimum order required by the factory was placed.
Meghan Markle, pictured here on her now-deleted Instagram feed, announced her royal engagement on Cyber Monday in 2017—"an incredible day for our brand," says Gates, "with various media outlets calling Birdies the 'slippers made for a princess.'"
Next, the ladies hit their personal social networks…hard. "We had very little money left for marketing and advertising so we had to get creative," Gates explains.
"Within weeks, influencers and celebrity stylists began reaching out to us for Birdies. This helped us generate organic buzz and imagery, which we then used on our website and social media channels," recounts Gates. (Yes, one of those early celebs was Ms. Markle, an ardent Blackbird lover.)
Since then, things have only gotten better. A beautiful flagship boutique on Union Street turns one in November, and the coffers are flush thanks to $2.1 million from a seed round led by Forerunner Ventures. And best of all (for the shoe addicts among us): 21 new styles will be dropping this fall/holiday season.
What else can we expect from the label in coming months and years? "World domination," Gates deadpans. "I'm only half kidding," she smiles. —Gail Goldberg
"I love Anthem Home on Sacramento Street. I always feel like I want to redecorate my entire house when I'm there!" says Gates.
(Courtesy of @antheminteriors)
"I'm loving our blush color Birdies in both The Songbird and The Robin. It's a great transition to fall, and still my favorite color," says Sharkey.
(Courtesy of Birdies)
Getaway: Lake Tahoe
"I love High Camp Home in Truckee. It's upscale mountain chic. And Jake's on the Lake—it's not fancy, but it's the perfect place to grab a drink on the beach," says Sharkey.
(Courtesy of @jakestahoe)
Nicole Modic, founder of Kale Junkie
(Eddie Hernandez Photography)
Nicole Modic, aka Kale Junkie, at Dolores Park in San Francisco.
Nicole Modic is in recovery. Recovery from the hellish stress of her past life as a lawyer (the courtroom yelling, the drudge of billable hours), and from decades of binge eating, bulimia, and the mental weight of all of it.
Except you'd never know it: The nutritionist, recipe developer, workout warrior, and all around wellness goddess, who's known to her whopping fan base as Kale Junkie, seems the picture of work/life balance and health.
And then you check out her Instagram feed, and omg it's the party of your #foodporn dreams, bursting with photos and recipes for the tastiest, gooeyest treats (mmm, chocolate chip pecan cookies), gorgeous toasts, and heaping bowls of grains and noodles. And when you soon discover it's all pretty healthy—no refined sugars, and often gluten- and dairy-free—you want to give Modic a hug and thank her for showing you the way.
The 37-year-old gets this a lot: If you dig deeper into that feed, you'll find that her nearly 90,000 followers can't get enough of Kale Junkie's menu of inspirational quotes and tales of struggle and experience, everything from botching a recipe and balancing work with parenting ("they are hard ass work!") to eating disorders and her recent 30-day experiment giving up booze. It's enough to make you forgive her preternatural thirst for exercise (even if you do want to comment hey, where did you get those awesome leggings?)—she does it all, from Barry's Bootcamp and SoulCycle to running the Lyon Street stairs and the Dipsea Trail.
It all started back in 2015, while she was on maternity leave with her first son, Gavyn, when her habit of posting food pics became too much for her personal Instagram feed and the handle @kalejunkie was born. As her photography skills improved and she completed a Functional Nutrition course to become a health coach, people—and brands—started taking notice, and iKale Junkie the brand became a viable alternative to that dreadful career in law.
Today, much of Modic's time is spent in brand collaborations, with the likes of Whole Foods, Belcampo Meat Co., and Bonafide Provisions, that shed light on what a healthy lifestyle can actually look like. She's even launched a "healthy-ish" guide to SF eats. Now, the Corte Madera resident is also taking her game IRL: She recently hosted a panel on body image for a group of 50 women, and on September 6th, will join an entrepreneurship panel in San Francisco hosted by the podcast "Brains Behind the Brands." She hopes to produce and participate in more pop-up events down the road—it's FTF connection with her community that really feeds her soul.
"While Kale Junkie definitely is food-focused," she says, "it's also a lifestyle designed to empower women [who are] struggling with food and body image issues with a safe space to just be, recover together, and start loving themselves." —Jen Woo
"PE Nation activewear is super flattering. The material is soft, and the sports bras hug in all the right places. As a chesty mama, I need something stylish and sturdy so I can bounce around and crush my workouts." (Tuck Shot Crop, $99)
(Courtesy of PE Nation)
"Hands down, my Berkey water filter system. This is the best investment I've made, and the water tastes incredible! It also helps that it's a stylish-looking home accessory." (Multiple sizes available starting at $175; berkeywaterfilter.com)
(Courtesy of @berkey_filters)
"Because I have a 16-month-old and a 3-and-half-year-old, legit getaways are tough. We do love driving to Healdsburg, Napa, and Sonoma, and dream of having a second home there one day. And, I'm dying to go to Australia."
(Josh Spires, via Unsplash)
Alexandra Bigley, cofounder of Bright Side Collective
(Photo by Jen Woo)
Alexandra Bigley, at home in Oakland.
When you meet Alexandra Bigley, a 35-year-old marketer based in Oakland, there's a high possibility she'll be dressed all in pink, from her cotton candy hair and cateye spectacles to her vintage gingham dress and ballerina flats.
Two things will instantly feel certain: This woman is a lady; and she looks terrific on Instagram.
But you wouldn't want to take her five-foot-two frame to mean that's she diminutive in any way: Bigley, the founder of the burgeoning women's community known as Bright Side Collective, has big personality and high-minded plans.
When she found herself momentarily unemployed in November 2017, the 13-year San Franciscan crossed the bridge to Oakland and found herself in a tough spot: out of a job, out of her element, and in need of social connection, work prospects, and confidantes. She imagined a group of women like herself—creative, entrepreneurial, collaborative—and set out to find it, or rather to create it; after all, the former criminal defense paralega with a master's degree in sports management from USF is nothing if not resourceful.
With her best friend, art director Danielle Moore, Bigley launched Bright Side in February 2018 with a networking event at Oakland's Lola Creative Agency. They invited all their Instagram followers and, to their surprise, 150 women showed up. Four events later, Bigley appears to have fulfilled that "burning desire to cultivate a diverse, purposeful, and accessible group." Her most recent event—a panel discussion on social media and branding with East Bay talent including stylist Bianca Sotello and holistic healer Maryam Hasnaaat, held at VSCO headquarters in August—filled up almost instantly and even garnered a wait list. It seems Bigley wasn't the only woman in town yearning for a tribe and an inclusive space (the group strives to welcome women of color and diverse socioeconomic statuses and backgrounds) to help cultivate career goals, side hustles, and friendships.
By day, Bigley still goes to her day job at Touch of Modern, where is the brand strategist. By night, she's strategizing how to keep bringing Bright Side to the forefront in order to share her "dreams for authentic connections and an inclusive community" with all the women around her. —Jen Woo
Kamperett's simple, cotton Varo dress ($385). "Made in California out of 100 percent Japanese cotton, this is a go-to for any event."
(Courtesy of Kamperett)
Susan Alexandra's Joni bag ($265), inspired by Joni Mitchell's Blue album. "This bag represents freedom, innocence, and sweetness all in one."
(Courtesy of susanalexandra.com)
Alicia Garza, cofounder of Black Lives Matter. She "has organized around issues of health, student services, domestic workers, police brutality, anti-racism" and more.
(Courtesy of @aliciagarza)
Angela Tafoya, editorial director of Lonny
(Photo by Morgan Pansing)
Angela Tafoya, editorial director of Lonny.
She may be soft-spoken, but Angela Tafoya is not afraid to tell it like it is.
For example, she's more than happy to divulge her anti-minimalist leanings when it comes to home design. "I like to call it 'controlled clutter,' and I am not ashamed of that," she declares. No big deal, except as the editorial director of Lonny, a popular home and décor site, she shapes how millions of people view interiors.
One whirl through Tafoya's gorgeous and personality-packed Inner Sunset home, which she shares with her husband and three-year-old daughter, and it becomes instantly clear that her use of the word clutter is, um, ridiculous. Every chic, lived-in room (she describes her look as "bohemian modern") is worthy of its own magazine spread. "I love a rich color palette, and texture and pattern. And I love stuff. Overall, I have a cozy approachable home. With a kid, there's nothing too precious," she says.
While Tafoya has served as the top editor at the Redwood City–based site (owned by Livingly Media) since 2016, the tastemaker has really found her groove this year: Not only did she get a promotion, the lean team she built from the ground up is flourishing and Lonny's national profile is on the up, with three million visitors each month and brand partnerships and event sponsorships such as West Coast Craft.
When it comes to her personal career growth, she's particularly proud of her role as bosslady to two editors and a designer. "When I was hired at Lonny, it was the first time I ever had to manage anyone. Over the past couple of years, I've developed a certain skillset in this area, and I consider that a real accomplishment," she says.
Something the New Mexico native never had to develop, because it's part of her DNA, is the ability to transform a room: "I've always been into rearranging things. I remember moving around furniture in my parents' house when I was growing up (and always begging them to take me to Michaels.) How people choose to live in their houses and what they choose to surround themselves with is just fascinating to me," she says.
Lucky for her, scouting houses and covering home tours—two of her favorite things—are key parts of her job.
Tafoya is no slouch when it comes to the fashion front, either. After all, much of the Freda Salvador freak's career has been devoted to San Francisco style: first as community manager at Popsugar and then as SF/West Coast Editor at Refinery 29, where she worked for four years. That is, until Lonny lured her away.
Smart move, guys. —Gail Goldberg
AT's Fashion Icon
"I love Solange Knowles. Her quiet artistry...her style…how she plays with volume, texture, and color."
Fav Local Shops
"Cameron Marks, Mira Mira, Le Point, Stuff, St. Frank, Future Perfect, and Goodwill."
(Courtesy of @stfranktextiles)
"I have at least 10 pairs of Fredas. I am such a loyal customer. They're amazing, and functional."
(Courtesy of @fredasalvador)
Lauren Farleigh, founder of Dote
(Courtesy of Dote)
The founder and CEO at work in the closet at Dote.
Lauren Farleigh is a serious, no frills kind of gal—the kind who can deftly discuss quarterly numbers among her investors.
But the 31-year-old Bernal Heights–based founder of Dote can also crush out a live Snapchat show with the prowess of a social media influencer—in fact, her business kind of depends upon it.
Dote, touted as the shopping platform for Generation Z, is a one-stop app where fashionistas can shop the latest trends from brands including Sephora, Asos, and Urban Outfitters; but like all good startups in 2018, it's also an immersive experience targeting women, er girls, where they hang out. And in the case of Gen Z, that's on Snapchat and Instagram.
Sort of like a mobile mall, Dote is leveraging social media with its army of #dotegirls—a tribe of more more than 100 YouTube and IG stars who paper the feeds with their teen and 20s spirit while traveling to cool locales (most recently Fiji) or just living their covetable lives, all while wearing cute outfits (and tagging up the brands) which are, of course, all purchasable from head to toe on Dote.
And if more than 100,000 IG followers and 30 million app users are any indication, the plan is working.
"Part of our thesis, and the way we've built our product, is centered around this idea of 'commerce around a person.' It means that a Gen Z girl today would rather get inspired and shop from her favorite social stars than from top-down big-brand advertising budgets," says Farleigh, who recently partnered with YouTube sensation Emma Chamberlain to create Dote's first private-label brand.
When the Alaska native once obsessed with catalogue and online shopping got her first cell phone back in the day, she blew her own mind with the idea of creating an app where she could access every store from anywhere. It plagued her by day at her job as a product manager in mobile gaming; it caught up with her in the shower and while daydreaming on the street. She sought funding—Dote has received a total of $10.8 million so far, partially secured through Planet of the Apps—and launched her biz in August 2014.
"We have a phenomenal team that I truly believe is best-in-class and has enormous heart. That's a pretty special combination. It really does take a village," says Farleigh. "If I've learned anything, [it is that] all great results come down to the people who are doing the work to make the incredible happen." —Jen Woo
Free People Why Not zip-through pullover ($128). "I have been loving Free People lately, and this plaid zip up is perfect for fall."
(Courtesy of Dote)
"I am often times traveling on the weekend for marketing trips, but if I'm not, I like to take my dog, Taco, to Fort Funston with my fiancé, Dustin."
(Courtesy of @lfarleigh)
"Scrunchies are back, and I'm here for it! This white one can complete any look," Farleigh says. High Key's go-to scrunchie ($6.50).
(Courtesy of Dote)
Lindsay Meyer, cofounder of Batch
(Photo by Brad Knipstein)
Linsday Meyer, at Batch HQ.
Imagine stalking the blog of your favorite style maven—the midcentury modern furniture of her jewel-box apartment jeujed just so with mismatched throw pillows and trendy monstera leaves.
Or quietly coveting those cool tassel earrings tossed on the bedside table of your most fashionable friend—where did she get those, Morocco? Tulum?
You could make a mental note of this look or that, perhaps collect a piece and a memory on your next trip to Oaxaca, Los Angeles, or New York. Or you could just buy it all (I'll take this, and this, and this) because you're a millennial after all; Instant Gratification is thy middle name. Don't worry, Batch cofounder Lindsay Meyer's got you.
"Every two months I want to redo my home," says the 32-year-old, who doesn't seem to mind in the least that "it's not the most pragmatic." The capital-M millennial knows all too well that a stayed interior doesn't make for a very fresh IG feed (Batch's is, fittingly, dripping in millennial pink), and so she's turned her compulsion into a now one-year-old "contextual commerce" concept that's banking on the equally short attention spans and Veruca Salt demands (I want it now!) of design-minded apartment-dwellers from San Francisco to L.A.
Part retail showroom and part home-staging company, Meyer's Batch is a one-stop shop for furnishings, home and fashion accessories, and even household essentials, from a Molekule air purifier all the way down to a hipster wooden toothbrush. Collections (called batches) are changed out quarterly inside the Nob Hill showroom where literally everything you see is for sale; and in the case you truly have no imagination, you can order entire "glo-bo" (that's global bohemian) rooms via email. Done and done.
If you're in the market for a co-living or co-working environment, Batch Showcases, as they are called, turn those environments into shopping experiences with locations currently at three SF condo developments (including the Dogpatch's Knox and 815 Tennessee) as well as one in beachy Venice. (As the company's website says, you can "fall in love with the vaulted ceiling and the dining room table, too.")
"People have always told me I have an amazing sense of style and I'm the most creative person they know," Meyer says with the rattling confidence of a well-funded startup CEO. And to be fair, she's earned her moment as the boss: Meyer was featured in Time's 2017 cover story "The Silence Breakers," which commended #MeToo proponents who were speaking out against sexual harassment, in the tech-workplace in Meyer's case.
She's between meetings and speaking from her car, which is parked outside the construction site of Batch's soon-to-be-fourth showcase in the Castro, about how her work is her life, and her life her work. When she does come up for air, you might catch her drinking bloody marys at Thieves Tavern and hanging out with her Apple-staffer-partner and their fluffy white rescue mutt Ralphie, also an Instagram star. Natch. —Chloé Hennen
"I go for a sporty-chic look, and that's become even more key lately since my days are really physical," says Meyer, who swears by Aday's sports bras and leggings to keep her comfy while on the move.
(Courtesy of Aday)
On the weekends, Meyer and her partner like hanging out in Dogpatch, where they go for the fish tacos and margaritas ("I order them spicy!") at Glena's.
(Courtesy of @glenassf)
"I'm currently loving Croft House's Latigo table for all of the holiday moments ahead, and I'm a huge fan of their oversize mirrors—they're stunning statement pieces."
(Courtesy of Croft House)
Molly Goodson and Carnet Williams, cofounders of The Assembly
(Courtesy of The Assembly)
Carnet Williams and Molly Goodson, on the patio at The Assembly.
In this new era of the reinvigorated women's rights movement, ladies clubs are trending.
Representing in the Mission are Molly Goodson and Carnet Williams, founders of the buzzy coworking and wellness space known as The Assembly.
Opened in January 2018, the former cathedral—with its glorious stained glass windows shedding polychromatic light on a stylish design compliments of women designers from around the Bay Area—is already a hub for women who want to connect over kombuchas, share ideas, get some work done and a workout in.
And it's thanks to a pair of seemingly subdued and serious characters who, incidentally, turn into a couple of giggly school girls at their daily 7am breakfast meetup.
The former Sugar, Inc. VP of Content (Goodson) and tech exec who did stints at InMobi and Sprout (Williams) put their heads together in the wake of the 2016 election with the aim of providing a gathering space for women. The idea wasn't totally outside the box for the two friends: They had previously cofounded Spright, an app connecting mothers with pediatric experts. Thanks to the right connections and word of mouth, the pair managed to amass a social media following and paying members before the club's buildout was even complete.
Since their sold-out opening weekend, The Assembly has ramped up its offering of fitness classes, inspirational talks, and self-care activities such as sound baths, acupuncture, and mani/pedis to include fundraisers as well—they recently raised $40,000 for RAICES' efforts to rejoin Mexican immigrant families who were separated at the border.
Currently, they are organizing offsite adventures for their 450 members (and non-members) and plotting The Assembly's next location (the whereabouts are still top secret). —Jen Woo
MG's Creative Hero
"All the authors of the books that have stayed with me—women who are able to show their vulnerabilities," Goodson says. "I think Cheryl Strayed has done this with a lot of honesty and truth."
(Courtesy of Cheryl Strayed)
Goodson loves Monastery rose cleansing oil ($39). "We sell this in the shop and it's available from local aesthetician Athena. I'm super into facial massage these days and enjoy this nightly ritual."
(Courtesy of Monastery)
"I love being a member of SF Jazz, and recently went to a delightful Zoe Keating concert there—live music, as much as I can," Goodson says. "Podcasts—do they count? And reading every single day."
(Courtesy of SFJazz)