San Francisco’s iconic Haight-Ashbury may still be a mecca for Sixties counterculture nostalgia seekers, but these days it’s mostly a hub of busy vintage clothing stores and indie fashion boutiques.
Called the Haight, its legacy comes from a time (roughly 1966 to 1969) when musicians, artists, Vietnam War protesters and others challenging the status quo laid claim to the neighborhood that leads into Golden Gate Park. Idealistic flower children saw the Haight’s abandoned Victorians and nine-block commercial drag as the perfect canvas for street theater, free clinics, free food and impromptu “happenings,” like the afternoon Beatle George Harrison showed up to play guitar in the park.
The Haight’s hippie-led renaissance was short-lived, however. By 1969, its figureheads and followers had dispersed, and group houses and storefronts were boarded up. “The neighborhood’s main attraction had gone back to being cheap rent,” wrote early Rolling Stone writer Charles Perry in his book, A History of the Haight.
Over the years, the Haight’s fortunes have improved. There’s been gentrification—the restored Victorians sell for upward of $1.5 million—and an array of independent merchants has unleashed its creativity in the early–20th century storefronts along Haight Street. But for most merchants, aside from some head shops and souvenir vendors, the hippie era is long gone.
“The Haight is known for having a unique take on fashion, a little edgy. People don’t come here for tie-dye,” says Cat Luedtke, general manager of Wasteland, which sells a mix of castoffs from designers such as Marc Jacobs and Pucci, as well as wardrobe staples like a white-eyelet belted tunic from Soda Blu or graphic-print T-shirts by Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction or Outlaw.
Mixing with the steady stream of tourists in search of the Haight’s hippie past are three local crowds: young fashionistas on shopping missions, skateboarders and those who line up on weekends for spicy chops and eggs at the Pork Store.
On a recent Saturday it was elbow-to-elbow at Dollhouse Bettie, where proprietor Michelle Eric sells locally designed foundations and vintage styles from the Twenties to Sixties, purchased as unused stock. Recently spotted on the racks was a Thirties-style pink kimono taffeta bed jacket with lace trim by San Franciscan designer Mary Green.
Down the block, young women were two rows thick at The Piedmont, eyeing a wall display of $4 colorful plastic earrings and an assortment of other Mod accessories. The store also caters to drag queens and anyone needing glad rags—such as boas, leggings, wigs or costumes, or lingerie in lamé, tulle, sparkles and fishnet—all mostly sewn in San Francisco.
Next door at Ambiance, fashion fever also was mounting in the long, narrow shop filled with contemporary women’s fashions, from a mix of labels such as Trina Turk, Weston Wear and Zazou.
Likewise, the door kept opening at La Rosa Vintage. “We’ve been selling a lot of 1960s dresses,” says manager Oran Scott, pointing to a peach chiffon shift as a popular silhouette. The store also is known for its new Hawaiian shirts in vintage prints by the historic Japanese label Sun Surf.
“Haight Street has such a history and the foot traffic is wonderful because of all the tourists looking for something from the past,” says Sandra Durbin, store manager of Ruby, a consignment shop showcasing local apparel and jewelry designers. Some of the store’s most popular sellers include layered garments that appear as though they’ve been taken apart and sewn back together, with seams on the outside and panels of recycled and dyed silk, like those by Miranda Caroligne. “This is part of the new wave in the Bay Area. Very green,” Durbin says, referring to the current wave of social consciousness that’s pervasive in the region. Seems like some things haven’t changed.
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa's “I-did-it-my-way” ethos stood out starkly at a time when brands are experimenting with consumer-facing fashion shows, coed formats and trans-seasonal collections – anything to perk up lackluster sales of ready-to-wear in an age of Insta-everything. “It’s not creation anymore. This becomes a purely industrial approach,” the late designer told WWD in an interview last year. “But anyway, the rhythm of collections is so stupid. It’s unsustainable. There are too many collections.” Read more about the iconic designer’s life and work on wwd.com, link in bio. #wwdfashion #azzedinealaia (📷: @WWD Archive, 1986) #alaia
Sneaker reselling app @goat’s latest exhibit, "The Greatest: New York," tells the story of New York's sneaker culture. To celebrate the exhibit, an intimate crowd gathered on Thursday night at the pop-up gallery space, located at Platform in Culver City, to hear guest speaker and illustrator @esymai talk about her own rise in streetwear and women in the business. "For me I'm just someone who is creative. I like to create things," said Chang. #wwdfashion
Azzedine Alaïa, one of the most iconic couturiers of the modern era whose body-con designs defined Eighties fashion, has died in Paris. The diminutive Tunisian-born designer, known for his structured knitted dresses with fitted waists and impeccably cut, figure-hugging second skin silhouettes was deeply admired by his peers, and counted supermodel Naomi Campbell - his adoptive daughter - among his inner circle, one of a gang of glamazons including Farida Khelfa, Carla Bruni and Stephanie Seymour who became ambassadors of his style. (📷: Alexandre Guirkinger) #wwdblast