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Introducing the Bay Area’s Best Up-and-Coming Fashion Designers

Welcome to the first annual New Designer Awards.

SLIDESHOW

Left to right: Anna Chiu of Kamperett, Theresa Lee of Future Glory, Erin Wallace of Hygge, Valerie Santillo of Kamperett, and Julian Prince Dash of Holy Stitch.

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Theresa Lee of Future Glory.

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Erin Wallace of Hygge.

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Anna Chiu (left) and Valerie Santillo of Kamperett.

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Julian Prince Dash of Holy Stitch.

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All those hoodies and tees notwithstanding, the Bay Area isn’t the fashion backwater it’s been made out to be. Recent years have seen the birth of Everlane and Cuyana, San Francisco–based, Internet-first lines that have inspired droves of imitators. Marin shoemaker Freda Salvador gets street-style love from Gigi Hadid and Kristen Stewart, and the southwestern-inspired jewelry line The2Bandits, based in the Mission, has been featured in dozens of glossy magazines.

It’s time to celebrate the people dispelling the lazy techie stereotype, which is why we’re inaugurating a new annual tradition: the New Designer Awards. Every year, we’ll honor four emerging Bay Area labels whose offerings have been evaluated for their uniqueness of design and materials, their craftsmanship, and their embodiment of our innovative Bay Area sensibilities.

The four designers recognized here have been worn by Kevin Durant, hyped by British It Girls, and featured in the pages of Vogue. But none are household names—yet. You can still shop them right here, right now, and, in a few years, say you wore them when. Thank us later.


Future Glory

What: Handbags, backpacks, and small leather goods.
How much: Bags range between $185 and $675; monogramming is available for $25 to $35.

When she started Future Glory out of her apartment in 2013, Theresa Lee’s star bag was a soft leather tote. But today, Future Glory’s bestseller isn’t an oversize carryall; it’s a structured, ring-handled bag called the Rockwell Mini. In a Sliding Doors alternate reality, the Rockwell might have passed unnoticed. Lee was toying with the design in 2015 and posted a preview on Instagram; the bag took off. “The Rockwell put us on the map,” she says. Although Future Glory is decidedly local (it has moved out of Lee’s apartment to a Dogpatch warehouse), about 50 percent of the brand’s orders come from Asia. Lee attributes the shift to British blogger Lucy Williams, who carried the bag during New York Fashion Week in 2015 and triggered an avalanche of glowing press from Vogue and others. Future Glory’s international appeal is such that Lee skipped Fashion Week shows in New York this year and went straight to Paris. “In my heart, I knew we would be successful to a certain level,” she says. “But it’s kind of weird when you look at your small idea, and people can relate to it and want to support it.”


Hygge

What: Effortlessly layerable separates, made in Oakland.
How much: Jacket, $198; top, $128; dress, $178.

Erin Wallace spent 15 years in retail marketing before connecting with designer Lisa Fontaine over lunch to discuss a jacket that was haunting her dreams: She wanted it but couldn’t find it. Fontaine loved Wallace’s vision so much that she left the fashion startup where she worked to make the dream jacket a reality. In February, the pair launched their label, Hygge (pronounced hoo-gah), with a single piece: the oversize denim kimono jacket. “There’s definitely a minimalist approach to the proportions and silhouette,” Wallace says, “but some of the fabric choices are a little surprising, and I think that adds to the modern feel.” Their first jacket was lined with a windowpane-print Japanese cotton and came in splatter-painted denim.

In May, the duo added a shirtdress and split-hem top, pieces that layer together in unexpected ways. Next up? A sleeveless duster vest. Playing with proportion in apparel is challenging, but Hygge is simplifying the process, one garment at a time.


Kamperett

What: Timeless tops, pants, skirts, jumpsuits, and dresses.
How much: Tops start at $225; hand-painted pieces can run up to $1,200.

Anna Chiu and Valerie Santillo had been friends for years before launching their label, Kamperett. “We met through a mutual friend as bridesmaids,” Chiu explains. That meeting set off a chain of collaborations at Restoration Hardware and, eventually, their own label, designed for busy women. “It’s important to have a line of clothing that you can literally run around in the whole day and not have to change,” Santillo says. While most of the pair’s swirling silk pieces have an ethereal feel, they can become day-to-night building blocks with the right layers and shoes. Now working on their fifth collection and newly settled into their Mission design studio, they’re thrilled by the response to the brand. “People will email us and say, ‘This is the most beautiful dress I’ve ever owned. It makes me feel so confident,’” Chiu says. “I mean, that’s the dream. You hope to make clothes women would appreciate. To hear that is the ultimate.”


Julian Prince Dash by Holy Stitch

What: Custom jeans and denim jackets.
How much: Jeans start at $360 off the rack and $500 for custom, off-the-rack jackets start at $150, and custom jackets run between $500 and the low thousands.

Julian Prince Dash can’t be limited to just one title. The graffiti artist turned designer is also a teacher, mentor, and rapper. From his Union Square studio, Dash creates custom jeans and jackets and remixes vintage denim for local shops like Afterlife. In the same space, he runs Holy Stitch, a workshop where interns and apprentices learn to sew. Dash hopes to eventually create a large enough workforce (and jobs in the process) to open a sewing factory to produce his line and others’. “I knew I was going to make jeans when I was 15,” he says. While he was taking a sewing class in Hayes Valley, he says, instructors tried to steer him away from jeans, but he wouldn’t be deterred. And the universe continued sending him signs: discounted industrial sewing machines, free embroidery thread, a job in a Levi’s factory. Over eight years, he’s built his business through word of mouth and chance encounters in the entertainment industry. That’s led to pieces for stars such as Young Thug and Warriors forward Kevin Durant. But to hear Dash describe it, the clothes aren’t all that important: “It’s my art,” he says. “It just comes in the form of clothing.”

 

Originally published in the August issue of San Francisco

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