We’re ushering in more and more local style across the country, and this time we’re honing in on the Bay Area. Rue San Francisco has arrived, giving you insider access to all the best local spots in the city. To celebrate San Francisco’s debut, we sat down with Director of Brand Partnerships, Heather Hartle, to talk about the city’s stellar boutiques, navigating the hills, and what to do when the fog rolls out.
Rue La La: Every city has its own fashion personality. What defines San Francisco style?
Heather: People love to say that San Francisco doesn’t have a distinct fashion style. My take on that sentiment is that because San Francisco has always been home to and prides itself on its entrepreneurs, free thinkers, and independents, it fails to fall into a set style persona. And that is a good thing. We’ve got everything from the preppy Marina girls and Mission hipsters to the tech geeks and ladies who lunch. I think of San Francisco style much like I do the people who wear it: varied and independent, with a strong sense of self.
Rue La La: Living in San Francisco has its dressing challenges (hills, fog, cool weather) – what are the key style pieces in your closet that everyone in town should own?
Heather: Everyone has heard the famous line from Mark Twain, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” Well, that explains my boot collection. It’s larger than when I lived in Michigan and I wear boots nearly all summer long. The second key to fashionably surviving the weather is layers, layers, and more layers. Finally, in order to gracefully navigate the hills in San Francisco, you have to have several heel heights in your closet. I was never a fan of flats until I moved here, and now my closet is stocked full of them, from Tory Burch to London Sole.
Rue La La: In 3 words, tell us how you’d describe your personal style.
Heather: Classic. American. Chic.
Rue La La: Everyone has that treasured piece (with a gotta-share story) in their closet – what’s yours?
Heather: On a trip to Amsterdam a few years back, I found a silk scarf that had to be at least 20 feet long. The yards of brightly-colored and insanely bold patterns (and general over-the-top statement of it) reminded me of something Elton John might wear on stage. As my friend and I were leaving with our purchases, the salesperson casually mentioned that David Bowie had been in just the day before and had purchased the only other matching scarf. Needless to say, I channel my inner rockstar when I wear it. Come to think of it, I don’t wear it enough!
Rue La La: Ah, you bring up one of our favorite pastimes: shopping. What are your must-stops on an all-out shopping trip through the city?
Heather: So many places! I love Jeremy’s in South Park for finding great designers at even greater prices (I once got a Chloe bag for a quarter of retail). There are plenty of great finds there – from ball gowns to bathing suits. Maiden Lane is perfect when you want to do some serious splurging – Marc Jacobs, Prada, Hermès, Gump’s – and that’s just to name a few. Valencia Street in the Mission has tons of great boutiques filled with independent designers and one-of-a-kind items, from fashion to home accessories. Grant Street in North Beach has several little gems … fantastic boutiques with the most amazing finds, like the latest denim styles, vintage clothing, fine stationery, chocolates, and even pet gear.
Rue La La: And then there’s shopping at the Alameda Flea Market/Antiques Faire, which can be very tricky. What are your secrets for nabbing a great find?
Heather: Get there early (VERY early) to be sure you don’t miss out on that great treasure you didn’t know you needed. And, if you can, stay late to bargain on that piece you just have to have… once everyone else has given up and gone home, amazing deals can be had!
Rue La La: Two words: Napa Valley. What are your favorite stops?
Heather: Wine country offers a great day trip or weekend getaway. I have two favorite destinations: Carneros Inn and Meadowood Resort – both offer completely different experiences, both world-class.
Rue La La: The fog leaves the city for a while – what do you do?
Heather: Whenever possible, I escape to Stinson Beach. It’s only 30 minutes north via Highway 1, and it feels like it’s a world away. The drive alone is worth it, the views along the way are breathtaking, and despite the sometimes treacherous curves, it’s one of my favorite drives around.
Rue La La: Tell us about the most wild thing you’ve ever seen in San Francisco.
Heather: Oh, there are so many to choose from! San Francisco is known for its street fairs and festivals. The Folsom Street Fair never disappoints for shock value – it’s the largest leather/fetish fair in the world. Need I say more? The Bay to Breakers, a 100-year-old San Francisco tradition boasts serious running along with thousands of spectators in costumes, ranging from Elvis to chicken suits and everything in between, including (until this year) nudists.
Rue La La: What would you miss most if you left San Francisco?
Heather: The people. The neighborhoods. The views. The beach. The bay. The fog horns. Everything.