From the colorful storefronts of the Haight-Ashbury to the sunny streets of the Mission, San Francisco is dotted with thrift stores selling secondhand clothing and vintage jewelry.
While City by the Bay is among the most expensive cities to buy secondhand items, San Francisco is home to a wide range of thrift, consignment and vintage stores, where locals and out-of-towners alike can find everything from mid from century mod to Y2K fashions that expose the stomach.
Among the city’s variety of thrift stores are a handful of small businesses and workshops that build on the thrift store tradition by revamping vintage looks with custom embellishments and sustainability in mind.
As the city celebrates National Thrift Store Day, we take a look at some retailers and designers who specialize in mending rips, changing waistlines and making old new again.
the future past
12 Clemente Street, San Francisco
Lindsey Hansen was tired of the turmoil and waste in the fashion industry: unworn garments sitting in warehouses, synthetic dyes polluting the Earth, and a general disconnect between fashion buyers, manufacturers, and consumers in the global supply chain.
“I think my entire career I had this guilt about how much waste I was contributing to,” said Hansen, who worked in the fashion industry in Los Angeles for years, sometimes churning out 90 jacket designs in a single month. .
The Napa native finally decided to leave the grind behind and moved to San Francisco about 10 years ago. He opened his revived vintage clothing boutique and atelier, The Future Past, on Clement Street in November 2019, just before the pandemic hit. At one point, the Otis College of Art and Design graduate was primarily a mask-maker, but her neighbors eventually stumbled upon the shop, which specializes in customizing, sewing, and repairing vintage fashion pieces, particularly from denim, and sell garments made from natural fabrics. or nuanced with natural dyes.
“Because everyone was shopping hyper-locally,” Hansen said, “it really helped me to root here and focus on people coming in.”
Now, when a customer walks into the store, they can peruse upcycled garments from local designers or The Future Past’s collection of revived vintage pieces, ranging from jeans with sashiko stitching (a Japanese mending technique using white geometric threads on indigo) to sacks of flour. turned into shirts. Customers can choose a piece from the rack to personalize or bring in an heirloom piece they’d like to repair, modify, or rework for a more modern fit or look. Custom jobs can range from $5-$10 to repair a button to $300 to rework an entire pair of jeans.
The seamstress, designer and owner hopes to one day offer sewing classes at the store. But until then, she wants her customers to feel comfortable in the store and in her wardrobe.
“I want people to feel like they can be themselves,” Hansen said. “That’s the kind of experience that I’m really trying to hone and nurture.”
3608 19th Street, San Francisco
Similarly, sustainability has been the mission of Marie Biscarra and Ivy Chan’s boutique, Isso, for 15 years.
The modern and colorful store on the corner of Guerrero and 19th streets not only sells products “made, found or designed in the Bay Area”, but has put its stamp on the hyper-local fashion scene with its most recycled vendor. popular in the last two years: a two-piece top and bottom set made with oversized men’s polo shirts cut in half. Biscarra was inspired by the tank tops and two-piece sets of Frankie Avalon’s “beach party movies” of the 1960s to repurpose polo shirts into cropped collared tops and sporty skirts.
“It just became a hot thing, so we never stopped,” Biscarra said. (Biscarra handles designs and merchandising, while Chan focuses on sewing.)
Other items with a personalized touch in the store include vintage jackets with San Francisco-themed patches done by a local artist and ruffled popcorn tops cut into crop tops or bandeaus. (If those popcorn tops don’t sell, Biscarra isn’t opposed to cutting them into smaller scarves or scrunchies so the material doesn’t go to waste.)
“Our planet needs us to be more aware of what we are doing. That’s just one thing that we’re trying to do ourselves to try to help.,” Biscarra said.
In the end, Biscarra hopes that Isso can inspire shoppers not to be “intimidated” by vintage fashion or second-hand clothing and find inspiration there. “I like to think of what we have in our store as classics with a twist,” Biscarra said. “So all these vintage pieces are timeless because they have already traveled through time and are still here. Now comes the twist because each of us is going to use this item in a different way, and we’re here to help you figure it out.”
Comfort and sustainability are also at the core of WRN FRSH, the brainchild of Gene Duven and Michael Falsetto-Mapp. Out of their Castro apartment, the married couple churn out lines or “lots” of unisex jackets, sweatshirts, pants and dresses sewn from “deconstructed vintage clothing” and sell their upcycled fashion at pop-up, online or local stores like The Future past. Falsetto-Mapp finds and gathers the vintage garments and fabric materials (sometimes the couple receives donations), washes them, sorts them by fabric type, and then begins the “deconstruction” process.
The couple cuts the clothing into panels, which Duven then sorts, sews, and assembles into WRN FRSH garments. The end products are one-of-a-kind tiles with subtle variations in panel size and hue that are intentionally non-binary and custom-tailored in their own way.
“Panels are always different,” Falsetto-Mapp explained. “It’s essentially one-to-one even though it’s inside a collection.”
“They get some… individuality, but they also get something they understand,” added Duven, who feels free to be able to “manipulate size” and “ignore gender” in her work and to be able to share that comfort with others. .
“Being non-binary, it’s really critical to our court,” added Falsetto-Mapp. “We do not have a section for men and women. we never have. That was always intentional as a physical way to take control and take back the power..”
Duven will further customize the piece if, for example, the client does not want the material to wear, have holes, or be more monochromatic.
“There is a little bit of flexibility,” Falsetto-Mapp explained. “Because it’s just the two of us, and Gene is doing it by hand, we can make those adjustments.”
Ultimately, the couple hope that their “thread-to-table” work, as Falsetto-Mapp describes it, will be an antidote to fast fashion’s harsh environmental impact.
“The way we’re doing it is a little crazy for most people because it’s time consuming. We call it slow fashion,” Falsetto-Mapp said. “It’s very meticulous and requires a lot of purpose.”