Only in San Francisco can one witness fashionistas exhibiting the latest haute couture with a more of a social undercurrent and purpose. Several San Francisco tours are escorting visitors and locals to underground and traditional shopping salons to see why San Francisco shopping is just as much about substance as style.

Kim Connector, fashion concierge and owner of “Fashion Slave” tours shows guests to independent fashion enclaves in differing neighborhoods where shoppers can find one-of-kind wardrobe additions: The Mission, the Haight, Union Street, the Fillmore District, and of course, Hayes Valley.

“We focus on shopping as a cultural experience, not fashion,” Connector says. She starts her three-hour tours at San Francisco’s City Hall in the Civic Center. “Why shouldn’t they see our city building? I like to start at RAG and Lemon Twist because they can see how the designer works.”

“Having worked with more than 400 local designers at our San Francisco boutique, RAG Co-Op (Residents Apparel Gallery), I have seen so much great talent come out of San Francisco and its six or more fashion design programs,” says Blakely Bass, founder of RAG Co-op. “San Francisco designers refuse to be stinted or stunted by trends and instead seem to manifest their ideas purely from personal inspirations and with the idea of good times coming from the designs they create."

“From the beginning, we’ve called it ‘slow clothing,’” says Danette Sheib, who with her husband designs clothes and owns Lemon Twist in San Francisco’s independent boutique shopping district Hayes Valley. “It’s the opposite of fashion for people who are used to retail. The clothes are made well and they go beyond the trends because the styles are modern and they last for years.”

Eschewing trends, the Scheibs are like many independent fashion designers who own their own boutiques: they do their own thing. Unlike a retail chain, the clothes are cut and sewn in San Francisco (mimicking the food train of supporting local, sustainable vendors), and they try to “repurpose” fabric. For example, Danette took a used pair of Levi’s jeans and transformed it into a hip jacket.

Lemon Twist is just one of many independent boutiques hanging a shingle in different San Francisco neighborhoods. In Hayes Valley, Timbuk2 repurposes used banners and seatbelts into custom messenger bags; Dark Garden offers unique, custom corsetry, and caters to celebrities such as Dita Von Teese; Paolo Italian Shoes sheaths hoofs with unusual pairings; Bulo has its own offering of Italian shoes, and RAG Co-Op showcases more than 70 rotating clothing, accessory and jewelry designers from the San Francisco Bay Area.

“Shop and City Tours,” a two-hour tour, leads shoppers through the heart and soul of Union Square. Donna Fuji, an award-winning author of “Color with Style,” and owner of Donna Fuji Color & Image Institute and Donna Fuji Cosmetics, guides her guests to the famous hot spots and hidden shops.

Virtually every fashion label in the world has set up shop in and around Union Square, a landmark park in the heart of the downtown shopping and hotel district --– Macy’s, Nordstrom, Bloomingdales (the only West coast store), Neiman Marcus, Selix Formal Wear, Burberry and Wilkes Bashford are just a handful of the retail stores catering to those in the fashion know. Union Square is also home to Britex Fabrics, famous for its floor-to-ceiling selection of textiles, and for the fashion students collecting swatches and ideas between bolts of fabric.

For fashionitas just as interested in seeing fashion and textiles displayed as much as worn, many San Francisco museums and galleries include fashion in their displays.

The DeYoung Museum in Golden Gate Park (Sunset District), regularly features exhibits from famous fashion designers or fashion patrons. Previous exhibits included Nan Kemper, Vivienne Westwood and Yves Saint Laurent (his only U.S. venue for the show). For more information, visit or call 415-750-3600. Media contact: Jill Lynch, 415-750-3553,

San Francisco offers many modes to satisfy anyone’s passion for fashion – whether trendy, high-end or independent. More fashion information and retail stores are available on the San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau’s Web site at For information on the trendy neighborhoods offering safe havens for fashionistas, visit


Kim Connector Fashion Slave 415-846-7037

Donna Fujii Shop and City Tours 415-922-9000

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For general information on hotel packages and reservations; events; activities and transportation in San Francisco, visit For lodging reservations, call 800-637-5196 within North America or 415-391-2000 elsewhere.

Updated 8.12.10