In conversation with Owen Geronimo, of Fashion Feud/Werkstatte


Owen Geronimo came out of the real estate world to work with San Francisco’s Fashion and Merchants’ Alliance, which seeks to facilitate networking among emerging designers and to place San Francisco, California right back on the map in the fashion scene. Here are some of his thoughts, on various factors and trends influencing the design world and San Francisco’s aesthetic.

He may be reached personally at and the SF Fashion and Merchants’ Alliance website is

Save-The-Date: “The Economics of Art” forum is going to be on Feb. 11th at The Barber Lounge. For details, please go to this site:

We at Synchronized Chaos would love to hear more about how people describe San Francisco’s fashion scene…trends, styles, what’s unique about the place? 


What’s unique about San Francisco’s local fashion scene is about the innovative melting pot of many talents here.  Realistically, style has really nothing to do with geographical locations. It has to do with the individual, him or herself.


However, San Francisco has its own mystique and aura regarding style. I think, because the San Francisco Bay Area is in the forefront in technology, politics, and social equality. If you look at history,settlers have gone west (across the United States) in the search for gold, the flower power of the seventies, the raves and the dot com era of the nineties. It is that the same mystique why most come to the SF Bay Area… to experience this movement.   


As far as trends are concern,  the street style fashion combining, the eighties neon B-Boy get-up and vintage chic from your local Goodwill stores is hot. That is the norm these days. Fashion evolves, the beatnik look, gothic and punk, hobo chic – you will see on the street. I think because of our weather here in the bay area, there isn’t really a set trend. Clearly, what’s out is overpriced labeled brands. Ultimately, we are now experiencing the “poorgouis” (poor and burgouis) economy all the retailers are adjusting their price points to cater to the consumers’ new frugality approach.


I think the majority of people are confused about style and fashion. It really has to do more about your attitude, it’s either ‘you got it’ or you don’t.  It’s all internal, the outward approach is really how you present yourself. Confidence is very sexy. Being unique would make you stand out in a crowd.


What advice would you have for upcoming designers? 

Master your own sewing machine.  If you want fashion to be your career, you have to live it. Fashion is an art not a hobby. Take a business class to learn accounting and to know the difference of profit and loss.  Be original. Always be aware of what your customer wants. Build a database. Prepare a realistic business plan. Join a collective to get exposed to the community. There is no shame in networking, so network like hell.

Why do you think fashion is important/a form of art on a level with paintings, etc? 


Fashion is very important. It is as extension of how we express ourselves to the public.  Some of us, sometimes intentionally dress up to get noticed. It is really in our psyche as human beings to crave for attention and fashion can satisfy this need. However, I personally prefer not to be noticed.


As a painter, you must be able to paint and create a masterpiece from a blank canvas originating from your mind. As a designer, transferring your sketch to a dress form is just the beginning process until the final product is made and ready to be sold to the public. 



What do you think is bringing about a renaissance for fashion in SF? 


The fashion renaissance never left, it was always here. I have met numerous individuals from New York, Miami, and as far as from Melbourne in my events just to see what is this local fashion movement about. It’s nothing new, it’s always been there but it has never been positively cultivated. I have observed that the major players in the local fashion scene are occupied disparaging each others. A perfect example is “Style Wars.” The judges were sarcastically rude toward the designer contestants, never offering constructive criticisms. It created so much animosity toward the creative designers. I couldn’t grasp it. I’m sure the crowd also noticed. The common goal of creativity and sense of community are ultimately lost within that event.


The last time, I saw “Project Runway”, no one actually representing San Francisco won.  No one made the cut. That was a major blow to the local fashion scene.


My main goal is to have San Francisco become synonymous with the word ‘fashion’. The local independent and “DIY” fashion scene is robustly thriving with the help of the internet. At the same time, we have fashion houses and major retailers here, such as, Bebe, Gap, Levi’s, Nice Collective, Chaiken, to name a few. The “Burning Man” crowd are also pioneers in the renaissance of the local fashion scene. 

How has fashion been affected by the economy? 


The economy has affected fashion and the retail industry immensely.  H&M just opened two new retail locations in Tokyo. This is a major shift from the “label” conscious Japanese consumers. Jimmy Choo and Sonia Rykiel also just launched their new line with H&M in United States.  Last fall, New York and Macy’s launched Fashion Night Out with Vogue’s Anna Wintour showcasing boutique trends in an attempt to stimulate shoppers to buy in New York. These are major strategic shifts from the retailers to adapt to the price conscious consumers that are driving the retail economy. 

By the green movement and environmental concerns? 

Eco-design is a hot commodity in the luxury market. The majority of society is slowly catching on. Eco-design, both retail and homeopathetic are growing rapidly. Some local designers are actually pioneers with this concept by ‘deconstructing’ outfits and wardrobes to come up with new designs. With environmental concerns, you have synthetic fabrics versus organic fabrics or chemically based dyes versus organics. It’s a tough call, a wholesaler would rely more on a cheaper commodity to run a business.

The Copenhagen Conference just wrapped up. Realistically, if we talk about saving the planet, don’t look to the fashion industry for an answer.  

By globalization and immigration and multicultural influence? 
Globalization. China, UAE and Saudi Arabia, India, Southeast Asia, The European Union.  As an American, I’m doubting if the United States can actually compete with these major players with our current political and economic climate. Our education system is lagging immensely compared to most developed countries.


In fashion? Globalization has made cheap labor, and cheaper materials, more accessible. It has made a lot of impact on open trade and import/export also with the help of technology.


Immigration? Banana Republic flagship store in San Francisco hired foreigners to fill their opening for the holiday season. Cheap labor will be filled by foreigners to try to fulfill their own American dreams. The companies would want to cut down their costs before hand. The United States should really look into extending H1 visas to foreign workers to sustain job security inside the country.  A lot of tech and labor jobs are rerouted out of the country to save money. After 9/11, many of the United States’ immigration laws have changed, and also with the recent decline of the banking industry, the influx of immigrants has tremendously dropped. 


What should someone look for in a clothing line? In the clothes someone wears? What makes an outfit artistic? 


Quality and comfortability. Armani is a perfect example. Your outfit becomes a luxury item. For me, sophistication is always a turn on. Again, it’s all about the attitude, it is not what you wear. It’s how you wear it. Originality makes an outfit artistic. A creative insight must be applied to come up with an original outfit. 

Should someone consider going to SF if they want to be successful in fashion?


*Laughs.* Hone your skills in San Francisco, then move to New York to make a name for yourself, then come back to San Francisco. You will not fail.

Okay, just one last question: Who are your personal inspirations? Whose clothes do you like? 


Laughs. This is a good one because I almost had a brain aneurysm with the ‘global’ questions.  Alexander McQueen is my fashion god for the past few years, it changes from time to time.  My personal inspirations are Issey Miyaki and Rei Kawakubo. I recall walking into Comme De Garcon’s showroom in Chelsea, years ago. It really was inspiring.