By  on May 8, 2006

OAKLAND, Calif. — A fashion and arts scene is blooming in the warehouse district that connects Berkeley and Oakland.

In pockets such as San Pablo Avenue and Dwight Way, amid tire shops and auto dealers, prostitutes and drug dealers are still able to do business. But they are coexisting in this streetscape with the likes of Jess Feury. She and her shop, Hobbyhorse, are at the center of the neighborhood's evolution. The shop, which opened in August, sells a range of merchandise, from retooled $60 vintage skirts and blouses, embroidered bags and unique buttons and brooches to $36 silk-screened T-shirts and vintage shoes, the base of any hipster uniform.

Feury — whose first exposure to fashion as a kid was a buying trip at Betsey Johnson's showroom with her mother, who owned a boutique in New Jersey — sells Bay Area designers with a focus on bohemian, handmade goods, in addition to her own clothing line, Magpie, which features pieces embellished with Native American beadwork.

Fashion is only one dimension of Hobbyhorse, though. The back room serves as an installation, gallery and performance space for local musicians and artists, with new shows going up monthly. In February, the "Unrequited Love" show brought in pieces of all sorts, including one artist's final divorce papers. Other shows are less tongue-in-cheek. The most recent installation, "Flora and Fauna," which opened in April, blends the worlds of fashion and art, in addition to transforming the back gallery into a "fabric forest," replete with stuffed woodland fantasy animals and featuring an installation of 1,000 origami paper cranes all made of recycled Vogue magazines.

"The shop is like an art installation in and of itself," Feury said. "All the designers and artists that work here or sell here leave an imprint with each new show and each new piece. A lot of the designers end up teaching a workshop, so we have classes here on appliqué and patchwork, or silk-screening. So it's a boutique, but it's also a workshop."

Eventually, she hopes to have high school students intern at Hobbyhorse and host their own fashion shows in the gallery. The organic growth of the shop and Feury's entrepreneurial, grassroots view of art and development — she once ran an art collective out of the basement of a record shop in Washington — reflects the tenor of the neighborhood.

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