San Francisco is a great city to raise children, but I was very happy to leave it. There’s no style, nobody dresses up-you can’t be chic there. It’s all shorts and hiking books and Tevas-it’s as if everyone is dressed to go on a camping trip. I don’t think people really care how they look there; and I look like a mess when I’m there, too.

Danielle Steel may not have an ivory tower, but her recently sold 55 room Spreckles mansion in Pacific Heights is close enough. When her comment about San Francisco’s lack for fashion was published in the Wall Street Journal on May 7th, 2011, it became astoundingly clear that Steel has no idea what she is talking about. Yes, San Francisco may have its share of Nalgene touting North Face enthusiasts, but upon reading Steel’s comment, one can’t help but snicker at the thought of an overly accessorized diamond encrusted Steel traipsing along the streets of the Mission where so many of the independent fashion forward boutiques reside or fingering the avant-garde ready to wear to be found in Hayes Valley.

Let us first be clear on one thing. Couture and style are not the same thing. Yes, these two separate entities often converge and when this happens, we are left with something absolutely breathtaking. Ironically, Steel’s daughter Vanessa Traina can at times be an example of such. But just as often, one can be found with the other far from sight. How many times have you seen some heiress or another head-achingly dressed in head-to-toe couture and found yourself silently screaming ‘no’ with every fiber of your sensibility? Because, no. Money cannot buy style, as so many of Steel’s Pacific Heights neighbors constantly misunderstand. Style is something that one is either born with or earned and easily murdered by fiscal excess.

black v san francisco

Click the thumbnails for full pictures:
Black V in San Francisco
Black V in San Francisco
Black V in San Francisco
Black V in San Francisco
Black V in San Francisco
Black V in San Francisco
Black V in San Francisco
Black V in San Francisco
Black V in San Francisco

That being said, the timing of Black V‘s recent Dark Fashion Event and Masquerade at Madrone Studios couldn’t have been better. Featuring a mostly black pallet from 8 already established and up and coming local designers as well as 3 jewelry designers, patrons of the event were also encouraged to wear all black to the event. A return to such a basic color could have easily resulted in an unimaginative and drab funeral aesthetic but almost as if a rebuttal to Danielle Steel’s comments, the palate served as a springboard for a flourishing of unique creativity that any true San Franciscan knows is one of the city’s greatest traits.

The show opened with a visually introspective emoesque film noir short by Ty Olson which easily set the tone for the night. One by one, the models emerged with sullen expressions, walking near ritualistically at a pace more torpid than the average fashion show – something to be appreciated considering the detailing of so many of the garments.

The first presentation was a collection from Project Runway’s season 7 runner-up, Jay Nicolas Sario consisting of sculpted denim pieces with contrasting desaturated washes peppered by a few sheer black evening gowns with asymmetric hemlines. Although the evening gowns were impeccable, it was the cleverness of the denim pieces with cleanly tailored cut-outs and modern twists on patchwork and button detailing that contained some of the most structurally stunning pieces of the night.

Homme by Dahae Kim followed with a series of separates that can only be described as perfection. In particular, two pairs of pants stood out amongst the beautifully orchestrated jersey long sleeve tops and well fitted outerwear. The first was a pair of tapered heather grey leather pants with long diagonal zippered pocket detailing and large, low sitting back pockets that without a doubt, will have women purchasing said piece for the men in their lives, if only to steal for themselves. The second was a pair of white denim pants with painterly dark grey graphic brushstrokes starting at the ankle, tapering off at mid thigh. Other pieces to be noted were the paint speckled long sleeve jersey top with a single dark grey raglan sleeve and leather motorcycle jacket in the same heather grey as the leather pants.

LHC Couture included a slew of classic black dresses with clever detailing and feather and sheer accents. Standouts were a long evening gown with a slit that began at the waist, flashing a pair of ruby red boy shorts and a strapless peplum dress with ruffles made from rich, dark feathers.

Cari Borja featured a stunning gold embroidered floor length gown with red accents by the collared neckline as well as at the jagged hem and MENK’s menswear contained cleanly constructed Commie inspired pieces worn with partial face masks that summoned images of wealthy socialist ninjas. A favorite from MENK was a pair of simple black flooded trousers that came across as a startlingly fresh way to translate darks for summer.

Inspiring details from Ken Chen SF included open zippered elbows on a jacket and beautifully draped hooded knits for both men and women, while GB Shrive’s leather wrap detailing around the legs and waists were a look to be noted. Finally, Phuong My sent the models down the runway donning masquerade masks, matching the theme of the evening. With shimmer and shine ever so present, standout pieces were a stiffly sculptural gold and black bell shaped dress and shimmering A-lined gold waistcoat that one could almost imagine Ms. Steel coveting.

If there is one thing to be learned from attending Black V, whose entire proceeds from the sold out charity event will go to San Francisco’s City College’s Fashion Show Production program, it is that fashion is not only alive and well in San Francisco, but it is a force to be reckoned with. With such ardent support from the already established designers for the San Francisco fashion makers of the future, how could it not?

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