Posts in Retail
Angle Is Attitude with Tilted Brim

“I grew up in the East Bay, in Union City, a suburb of Oakland, and I came up with a lot of different people. And Filipino kids were always known to have a lot of style that was respected not just within our own group, but also was respected and lauded by all the other groups as well. I think that really carried a lot of weight to me, like, 'Hey man, it's cool to be Filipino!' And maybe when my parents were growing up, especially my dad growing up in Queens, it probably wasn't that cool to be Filipino.”

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Justin Bautista, along with partner and college buddy Nathaniel Torres, opened the streetwear boutique Tilted Brim in the Tenderloin just over a year ago with the intention of creating a shop that expressed their core philosophy: Angle Is Attitude.

“My style icons were my mom, my dad, and my grandpa... He always had a really good style, pretty tailored, because in his day you didn’t buy stuff off the rack — the finest dressers always had their clothing made.

“The attitude that we try to bring in the store is kind of like a street smart, hustling appreciation for the City and sports and style, and attention to detail, all wrapped together through a look that is as nonchalant as it is rooted in street fashion and sport style.”

Still, Justin is careful to highlight how, despite the influences of streetwear and hip-hop culture, his family and his upbringing had a major impact on his understanding of aesthetic — and therefore, the approach to clothing on display at Tilted Brim.

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“My style icons were my mom, my dad, and my grandpa. My grandpa came to New York when my dad was seven. He always had a really good style, pretty tailored, because in his day you didn’t buy stuff off the rack — the finest dressers always had their clothing made. And then my mom's mom was a dressmaker, and all of my mom's clothes growing up were all made by her mom, my grandma. So I think that’s where I get my eye for style and fashion, because it is ingrained that deeply into me. And I also think that my dad’s childhood in New York also had a huge influence his style, and therefore on me, and therefore on the store's style, and its location, and its identity as sort of an underdog.”

Presenting that mentality through a carefully curated lineup of brands and products, Tilted Brim stocks wares that evoke a sensibility that’s decidedly modern and urban, while still paying respect to the heritage brands that helped institute the idea of streetwear in the formative late ‘80s and early ‘90s

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“We have our own line, Tilted Brim, the name of the shop. And it consists of cut-and-sew, accessories, and printables. We've got Ben Davis, which is a work wear brand that started in San Francisco -- and Ben Davis' grandfather actually helped invent blue jeans with Levi Strauss, so we thought it was important to bring that type of connection, given that jeans were invented in San Francisco. So Ben Davis kind of was a street wear brand before there was even street wear, because there weren't any brands that catered to more discerning young people. But on the other side, we have Champion from Europe. And Champion is kind of another brand that people wore as street wear before there were dedicated brands. And it's fabricated really nicely, with great details and great fit -- and it adds an element of exclusivity, because we are the only store in the City with this collection.”

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Working with a boutique mentality has helped connect Tilted Brim with the other small businesses in the Tenderloin — a tight-knit community that Justin indicates as a key driver for Tilted Brim’s involvement with Undiscovered SF, where he feels the project helps contribute to wider goals of ownership and economic empowerment for Filipino-Americans in the Bay Area.

“One of my neighbors over here at the shop plugged me into Undiscovered -- Andy Alvarado of The Family Room. He is one block over and two blocks up from me, and he asked if I was interested by the Undiscovered show. And I thought it was a really good idea, and Andy signed up for the first one, and he got us into the first one, back in August. And we both had a really good event -- it was crazy, that first one, just how many people showed up. And the night after, I remember, we booked for the rest of the Undiscovered calendar for the year. I like the idea of food, retail, and entertainment all together -- it's not just something that Filipino people like to do, but something that people like to do.”

Non-Uniform Standard Never Conforming

"It all really started with me just making a couple of hats for myself, and people would notice and say they liked what I was wearing.”

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Cir Sayoc, owner and designer of the bespoke headwear brand Non-Uniform Standard, has a calm, soft-spoken vibe that reflects the objects he produces. The hats that come out of Non-Uniform Standard present an obvious quality of workmanship and attention to detail — a contemporary sensibility for classic approaches to clothing.

“I really take pride in being able to pattern-make and in the ability to sew. I think having those skills really separate you from lots of other designers, because not everyone has those skills anymore, and being able to incorporate them into my work I feel gives it a unique feel and look that you can’t get otherwise.”

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Craft is critical to the aesthetic of Non-Uniform Standard, which stresses the significance of the quality of materials and skill of the maker in its designs. It’s a principled approach that respects the utility of objects and incorporates purpose at every level of the design process — a method and work style that Cir says he developed as a young professional working in a San Francisco that looked and felt very different than the City seen today.

“My early career eventually landed me at Levi’s, in the early 2000s, and back then the maker culture was much different. Seemed like people everywhere in the City were making all kinds of stuff; and not solely focused on technology, but on crafts, too. Candles, soap, jewelry, stuff like that. It was an interesting culture that really had an influence on me.”

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Now, after years away from the City, working and living in Seattle, Cir is back in the Bay Area. And he’s noted the drastic changes that have taken root across the San Francisco landscape, not just from a socioeconomic perspective, but from a style perspective as well. It’s something that he’s incorporated into his project, not just as a way to appeal to a wider audience, but also to communicate his beliefs about what the City is and should mean.

“We want to have a very wide appeal. When you look at the classic fashion that the City has produced — Derby jackets, Levi’s 501s — these are ubiquitous products, these are things everyone can wear. So, right now, Non-Uniform Standard really is for someone that’s into high-quality headwear, who knows and respects quality and who is looking for something a bit unique. As I’m personally drawn to minimalist and heritage cues, I’m thinking that my customer has the same ethos.”

“It all really started with me just making a couple of hats for myself, and people would notice and say they liked what I was wearing.”

And he’s quick to point out that, despite his deep range of professional experience, his ethos has also been shaped by his family, and their approach to clothing and fashion. Raised in a critical era of style, the 1990s, between the two cosmopolitan capitals of California — Los Angeles and San Francisco — Cir’s understanding of aesthetic was developed out of a keen awareness for trends, rooted in a solid understanding that producing your own is always better than simply going out and buying.

“I have really fond memories of going to LA to visit my family, after we moved up to the Bay Area. This was the time of Cavaricci’s and MC hammer, those early 90’s vibes. And the kids, we would always want new clothing, so my grandma, mom, and aunts figured how to make the harem pants that MC hammer wore, and just started making them out of fabric we liked. I remember having a pair of purple stretch rayon that had a little crinkle texture. Good times!”

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It’s this energy of family and moving forward together that Cir sees in abundance at Undiscovered SF and in SOMA Pilipinas — a site of cultural unity and exploration that he feels will play a major and lasting role for the Filipino-American community in the City.

“I think SOMA Pilipinas is great because its a place for our culture and for our people to call home. What’s great about Undiscovered is that it connects the dots with all the various groups and businesses from all around the Bay Area, from the communities in Vallejo and Union City and Daly City and San Jose, and when you go to an event like this you get a sampling of it all — not just the businesses, but the people.”

Retailmarky enriquezhats, fashion
Novus Vetus in the Place with Style and Grace

I moved to the Bay Area from New York as a kid, and started hanging out with a lot more Filipino folks -- they were always the best-dressed, to me.

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Aries and Carren Nuñez, the team behind Novus Vetus, have always been into fashion and dressing well, inspired by Hip-Hop culture in the ‘80s and ‘90s. But it was the event of their wedding that turned their eye and taste for cool clothes into a business venture.

“Novus Vetus is vintage clothing from the 80s and 90s, all curated and thrifted items by myself and my wife, Carren. We've been thrifting and collecting vintage for a pretty long time, but just started selling in the past couple of years. We just started doing it as a little side business to help pay for our wedding a couple years ago, and since then we just kept going,” Aries says.

I moved to the Bay Area from New York as a kid, and started hanging out with a lot more Filipino folks — they were always the best-dressed, to me.

Aries recognizes how the category of vintage clothing has crept into the realms of Hip-Hop culture, and cites the crossover of cultures as the critical point where Novus Vetus operates.

“It's definitely a Hip-Hop aesthetic, and it's interesting because I have seen how Hip-Hop style has evolved, and now people in that culture are wearing vintage clothes -- and not just vintage Hip-Hop clothes, but stuff that rockers wore back then is now considered part of Hip-Hop style. So an old band T-shirt that sells like crazy now, say Metallica or Guns N’ Roses, would have been the farthest thing from Hip-Hop style back in the day. So it's really interesting how vintage fashion and vintage clothing in general have become a part of Hip- Hop fashion.”

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Exploring the nuances of Hip-Hop fashion, which is both ubiquitous and scene-driven, is also a primary preoccupation of the Nuñez’s project.

“I am half Filipino and half Dominican. In New York, the Dominican community likes to dress very well, it’s a very East Coast Hip-Hop style. Growing up in the Bay Area, I started hanging out with a lot more Filipino folks, and they dressed the most like my cousins and family in New York. Everyone was active in arts and Hip-Hop culture -- b-boys, DJs, graff writers, and even MCs -- they all looked the part, and they had that style that I was into through my connections from New York. But after a while, it wasn't about me trying to be like New York's artists, and I felt more of a connection to the styles in the Bay Area, like, "This is our style,'” Aries says.

And for Aries and Carren, the personal connections that their family shares with the styles and fashions that they hunt down and curate for Novus Vetus are the most valuable parts of the project.

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“The funnest thing is when we get to work our booth together at the events. We have a three year old daughter too, she will come sometimes and it's cool hang-out time. As far as hitting thrift stores together, we don't do that as much anymore. The most fun for me is just having a business together. We get to share our personal histories with these clothes -- I tend to like more late '80s and early '90s stuff, and she's really into personal histories with these clothes -- I tend to like more late '80s and early '90s stuff, and she's really into more late '90s, and even the early 2000s stuff. So its just fun seeing both of our styles together in one shop," Aries says.

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For Aries, this reflects the reality that more and more Filipino-Americans are assuming roles as tastemakers and creators in a variety of industries, including fashion.

Filipino people have always been involved in the Hip-Hop scene. So it makes sense that as industries evolved, we take on bigger roles in different games.

“Filipino folks love to look good and dress well, and you can really see it in streetwear fashion. It makes sense because a lot of us grew up in it and love it. My twin brother is also really into fashion and clothing, and he is currently working on a documentary about Filipino-American history. He’s talked to some people involved in fashion and streetwear, and they all mention how they were influenced by 90s Hip-Hop culture via Polo, and Tommy Hill, and stuff like that. Filipino people have always been involved in the Hip-Hop scene. So it makes sense that as industries evolved, we take on bigger roles in different games.”

Aries sees Undiscovered SF — where Novus Vetus will be a regular vendor — as a perfect example of an evolving cultural space that Filipinos have carved out for themselves through their influences in Hip-Hop, as well as in the cultural arts that preserve Filipino heritage.

“You can catch us at Undiscovered SF every month. It’s fun being part of the community. Being surrounded by a bunch of Filipino vendors and businesses, showing off their products, it makes me proud not just being around fellow business owners, but watching the performances, the cultural dances, the history of Filipino people. I'm always proud to see the massive range of what Bay Area Filipino folks can do.” 

 

Retailmarky enriquezfashion
Asmbly Hall: Deep Roots, Strong Branches

“When we first opened up the shop, it was just a business to us. But we think it's evolved into something much greater than that.”

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Posted at the register of their Fillmore Street storefront, its walls lined with local accolades, Tricia and Ron Benitez of Asmbly Hall (located at 1850 Fillmore Street) speak with a quiet confidence that reflects their steady approach to retail, and also helps maintain a mellow energy for their toddler daughter, Harlow. After six years in the upscale Fillmore shopping district, they’ve learned the importance of striking a balance between keeping it real and keeping it cool.

“This area of Fillmore Street has been kind of high-end and affluent. And I think we knew what kind of business that we wanted to open: something that was accessible, a little bit easier on the price point, somewhere we could see ourselves shopping, and we didn't see that in this neighborhood. So I think it was also trying to fill in a little niche that was missing. We felt like, 'We're young and we're hip and we don't want to break the bank, and we don't feel like there's a shop for us in this neighborhood, so why don't we just put one there?’” Tricia says.

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With years of combined retail expertise between them, Ron and Tricia’s brainchild quickly blossomed into the space that is Asmbly Hall — a space specially curated to present local brands and rare, artisan-made products at prices that are friendly to everyone in the neighborhood. In this way, Asmbly Hall is a continuation of the legacy of small business ownership in Tricia’s family, former grocers in Vallejo and the South of Market.

“My grandparents owned a Filipino grocery store — Evangelista Grocery — in Vallejo, and then they expanded into South City and San Francisco, in the SOMA on 8th and Howard, which my dad took over in the '70s. We were one of the first Asian-American grocery stores here in the Bay Area, and we imported fish, fruit, and treats from The Philippines. So from a young age, when i was a child, my brother and I would be brought to the store -- we were shop kids. But I think the nice thing about that grocery store that we also see here at Asmbly Hall is that we see return customers, and then a lot of people who are customers become friends,” Tricia says

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Continuing the legacy of business ownership is something that Ron and Tricia both feel is important not just for their own family, but for the Filipino-American community at large — especially as younger generations look more and more to less traditional career routes.

“My father was in the Navy and my mom was a nurse, so I had a pretty traditional upbringing, and that's probably what a lot of people might think of when they think of a Filipino family. And so being a small business owner is I think very empowering for this generation of Filipino-Americans to step out of the comfort zone and take risks and know that there are other career opportunities out there to help make a positive impact on your community and your neighborhood,” Ron says.

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For Ron and Tricia, this means supporting an ever-growing roster of local vendors and Filipino-owned operations, reinforcing the values of community and cooperative competition that Asmbly Hall stands for.

“We’re proud to sell locally-made knits, neckties, and bow ties by Ronnie Escalante, accessories and textiles ranging from laptop cases and bags to rugs and footwear by Ilano, and of course, our own Asmbly Hall locally-made and printed tees and sweatshirts and cut & sew jackets. We’re also proud to present the work of local artists like Lee Queza and Jeramie Tolentino and Gem Mateo. It’s a diverse range of styles and we’re happy to be the spot where all these ideas can gather.”

With six years firmly under their belts, Asmbly Hall is doubling down on positively impacting their community, and they see Undiscovered SF as a key site for fostering the community and culture that will sustain future Filipino-American generations.

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“I think Undiscovered is a great way for people of our generation and younger to see what kinds of avenues are out there for them to touch. So it's really a community, cultural experience -- we've met Filipino people from all over the Bay Area, from Canada, from Chicago, all parts of the United States, and it’s really encouraging to connect with them and see how inspired they are and enthusiastic they are about their own projects. Now that we have Harlow, to see a Filipino-American cultural district that's growing and will be there for the next generation, for her generation to have something and somewhere to feel her roots and see her identity, and go somewhere it's a distinct space for her culture, I think that's important for us to be a part of and help grow,” Tricia says.