Last week I loaded my lazy ass on the 1-California and rode out to Susan, a San Francisco boutique and institution for those with the means and taste for the avant-garde.
I was introduced to this special place 15 years or so ago, when my fashion illustration teacher (and author of “Fashion People”,) Gladys Perint-Palmer, suggested us students go there to browse the racks for inspiration.
I was terrified. You just don’t roll into Susan. You have to be “buzzed” in. The other shoppers were wives of surgeons and international bankers dripping in Prada and Givenchy, grabbing armloads of Japanese treasures costing more than a car. Yet the clothes were so interesting and beautiful and different than what you could find anywhere else in San Francisco, I vowed to dust myself off and go back in when my wallet gained some weight.
I made friends with Nancy the manager and Theresa the wonderful shop-girl (who sadly left but was replaced by the equally wonderful Matt the shop-boy!) who helped me chose pieces I could afford, calling me when the big sales hit, and educated me on designers that would become mainstays in my closet before they became mainstays in fashion culture: Rick Owens, Undercover, Tom Binns, Peachoo + Krejberg. Two items in particular have become mainstays in my life: A Junya Watanabe faux fur cape I gifted myself when I turned fifty, and the Hoorsenbuhs wedding ring I picked out two years ago when I married the man of my dreams.
When I entered Susan last week, I didn’t need anything. I rarely do. But after playing dress-up for Matt, and taking a final spin through the racks, I was attracted, like a cat, to the shiny objects peaking out of the right corner of the store. There I found sequins — thousands of them sewn onto sweatshirts and Ts and jeans — the casual stuff I live in.
Turns out this brand, Ashish, was new to Susan and me. Ashish Gupta founded his line in London in 2001, and says his ideal client is someone “Fun-loving and sexy with a sense of humour. She likes to make an entrance.” He grew up fascinated by Hollywood and it’s glitz and glamour, thus his obsessions with sequins and more sequins.
And so I walked out of Susan with two pieces from his latest collection: A black, backless, sequined short-sleeved sweatshirt that I promise is way more practical than it sounds, and the very odd (Jslow is going to HATE them) half sweat-pant, half mom-jean trousers that somehow work. Can’t you see that I really had a hole in my wardrobe that only a sequins and sweat-jeans could fill?
The moral of this long story? Get out there and be inspired by your local boutiques. It’s so much more fulfilling than mindlessly gorging online. I love talking to Nancy and Matt about their lives, and learning about unknown designers. I couldn’t wait to get home and research Ashish and view his past collections, and can’t wait to see what he sends down the runway this Fall. And you know what else? Sometimes it’s OK to buy something you really don’t need. Especially if it involves sequins.