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Best Bay Area-Based Designers

Not everybody can afford top-of-the-line designer clothing, but an occasional splurge on an original design is a treat worth considering. Finding local designers is a great way to explore the possibilities, so here are a few home-grown San Francisco artists whose work is exciting. Whether dress, boot or hat, local design is where it's at. These talented folk will have you stepping out in style. You may not be walking the runway in Milan this year, but you can still feel special, look your best and stand out from the rest.

(credit: Nicole
(302) 319-2473

Alyssa Nicole is a San Francisco-based clothing designer who has been designing professionally since she was 16 years old. All of her collections are personally handcrafted by the designer and sold online. Dresses typically sell for less than $500 and all pieces are one of a kind. Alyssa likes to describe her work as design for the good bad girl. She describes that girl as "the one who got away and the one who gets away with it." She reports on her website that she likes "to mix finished garments with unfinished detailing to evoke an effortless sense of cool."

(credit: Skikos

Camelia Skikos moved to San Francisco in 2003 to work as a head designer at Levi Strauss. At that time, she also did design work for GAP and taught fashion design at the Academy of Art University. All of this eventually lead to founding her own label in 2010. She has since been awarded a San Francisco Fashion Award for Best Women's Wear Designer. Her selections can be found locally in two shops: Wonderland and 440 Brannan. In New York, her work is available at Eva New York.

Related:San Francisco's Best Comfortable Shoe Stores

(credit: DeAnna Gibbons Facebook)Deanna Gibbons
1364 Florida St.
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 821-4287

Deanna Gibbons makes no ordinary hat. From off the shelf to custom made, her work is the essence of elegance. Her charming studio, located in an over 100-year-old building in the heart of San Francisco's famous Mission District, will make you feel like you've taken a step back in time. Not only does Deanna design and sell her own hats, she conducts workshops to teach you the genteel art of being your own milliner. The great writer, Margaret Atwood, said: "I myself have 12 hats, and each one represents a different personality. Why just be yourself?" Visit Deanna Gibbons to discover personalities you never suspected you had.

(credit: Form and Fauna)Form and Fauna
35 Miller Ave., Suite 135
Mill Valley, CA 94941
(323) 252-2522

Form and Fauna designs shoes, manufactured locally in Mill Valley. A very successful designer, with collections shown in stores throughout the United States, Form and Fauna creates shoes from sustainable materials. All of the materials are biodegradable and use no animal products. This designer is so committed to sustainable materials that it uses second-generation recycled scrap wood for its heels. And all of the glues are water based. In spite of the unusual materials, the appearance of the shoes and the overall quality of design compares favorably with other upscale shoe manufacturers. Form and Fauna does not sell directly to the public at its Mill Valley manufacturing location. To see where these shoes can be purchased, click on the web link above.

Related: Best Bay Area Hat Shops and Milliners

(credit: Hatz
1307 Mason St.
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 931-4289

The final recommendation for an SF Bay area designer is another milliner, because you just can't have too many fine hats. Jacqueline (JAX) Ryan is an art school graduate with a passion for hats whose family has lived in San Francisco for five generations. As with other fine milliners, every hat created by JAX is hand made and thus unique. She has been creating her original hats full time since 1996. That's a lot of one-of-a-kind hats. JAX markets her hats at outdoor markets and festivals of all sorts throughout the Bay Area, and through her online store. For information, visit her website linked above. (Note: The 1307 Mason Street address is not a retail outlet.)

Charles Kruger is well known in the Bay area as "The Storming Bohemian" ever since he entered the Bay Area cultural scene in the summer of 2009, attending 90 cultural events in 90 days and blogging about it. This project was successful enough to warrant a mention in The New York Times. His coverage of Bay area theatre can be found at

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