Mimi Sylte on Fashion: In Conversation with Sam Formo, of San Francisco’s nonprofit D-SINE


The fashion industry is the second most waste-creating industry in the world, right behind weaponry. However, San Francisco is a forerunner in the sustainable fashion world, and Sam Formo has made his home here with his new concept of a zero-waste pattern, which earned him placements for awards and exhibitions internationally. Along with his industry-changing ideas, he also has founded D-SINE, a non-profit that helps down-and-out men and women change their quality of life for the better through learning fashion design.

D-SINE stands for “Developing Skills through Independence, Networking and Empowerment”. Formo combined his work in Social Services with his talent of passing on his skills to others. His pupils have found themselves in a tough position through homelessness, substance abuse, sex work, or incarceration. I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Sam about his work and his wardrobe.
Mimi: “How would you describe your personal style?”
Sam Formo: “I have roots in the punk scene, I have some edge. I like to have one little thing to stand apart from the rest. I’m obsessed with shoes, my closet is full of them.”
M: “How would you describe San Francisco’s style, and would you say it’s unique to other major cities?”
SF:”San Francisco has a very laid-back style. It’s gotten a lot better. I’ve lived in New York City where there is more style, not just fashion. Here everyone looks homogeneous, hipster.”
M: “How do you feel about menswear getting more attention recently?”
SF: ” It’s great! It’s about time- it needs it.”
M: “Do you have a favorite designer?”
SF: “I like Margiela. My favorite pair of shoes is by Dries Van Norton. They last so long, I love them!”
M: ” What are you really excited about wearing this fall?”
SF: ” I don’t follow trends so much!”
M:”Do you have a routine when you get dressed in the morning?”
SF: “I start with the shoes. I decide what shoe to wear for the day and the rest falls into place.”
M: “Tell me about D-SINE.”
SF: “It’s a twelve week incremental program with an end goal of generating income through making one’s own line of clothing.”
M:”What is a typical meeting like?”
SF: “Well, we meet up once a week for three hours. We check-in, get to work, conceptualize ideas, inspiration, mood boards, and translate it into design.”
M: “Why do you care about helping down and out people?”
SF: “I have experience from hardship and have overcome a lot of adversity. I want to help them make better decisions, reduce the harm in their lives. This inspires me. It’s my favorite day of the week. It comes from a very personal space, and I am learning a lot about myself.”
M: “Do you have advice for someone who wants to start a non-profit, or something similar to what you are doing?”
SF: “Get help! Have a solid idea and a plan. Make a business plan, find funding. You have to love it.”
D-SINE meets once a week at the St. James Infirmary. If you would like to help with donating a sewing machine, muslin, tools, or your own time, please feel free to contact Sam through the group’s Facebook page! www.facebook.com/pages/D-SINE/468300883260792
Mimi Sylte is a fashion student in San Francisco, currently working at nonprofit runway shows in Seattle and serving as a staff writer for Synchronized Chaos. She may be reached at jacintasylte@gmail.com and appreciates tips and thoughts for further columns! 

Woman with hat, also by George Hodan