All of San Francisco’s athleisure-loving appeal is fast forgotten once you step into JAKE, the newly boutique-meets-showroom on Jackson Square; all white marble, bright lights and boldly decorated fitting rooms. The opening itself saw more heels and fitted dresses than all of SF’s yearly events combined– which is exactly how the owners, designer Jake Wall and his business partner Nathan Johnson like it.

Jake Wall, a Project Runway alum, is known by the local fashion circuit as the designer behind the buttoned-up and over-the-top brand Artful Gentleman, but his new abode focuses on tailored evening wear and sophisticated casual separates for women.

We caught up with the designer and chatted about pet peeves, iced tea and starting your own business in one of the country’s most expensive cities.

What was the most valuable lesson you learnt from Project Runway?
For me, I think the most valuable part of the experience was working alone again, and with aggressive time constraints. I was able to really see what I was able to pull off–it is amazing what one can make in 8 hours…when failure is not an option.

How did you come to open a flagship store in the city?
I was raised part-time in San Luis Obispo and here in San Francisco. Five years ago when Nathan and I got together and started talking about what we wanted to build, it became very clear to us that we wanted to start a ‘new tradition’ and wanted to do it in a place that had a rich history of tradition along with innovation.

What advice do you have for budding fashion entrepreneurs?

Fashion is one of the best and hardest industries you can work in–it’s a world where being and maintaining relevance is not a sprint but instead a continuous marathon. You must constantly give the customer the thing he or she never knew they wanted. It’s not easy but when you are on your game, it is the best feeling and well worth the blood, sweat, and tears.

JAKE Grand Opening

What was the best and worst part of starting a business?
The best part of what we do at JAKE is working with each client to develop his or her individual style. To see the evolution of the client is second to nothing else. It is why we do what we do. The worst part is really the ever-growing amount of paperwork that is required to truly make this a business and not just an idea. Businesses create a massive paper trail – digital or otherwise–and the bigger you dream and become; the more paperwork one has to tackle.”

Where do you drink your coffee?
I don’t drink coffee. I am an iced tea type of guy. I brew it at home and always have it brewed at the showroom as well. I loved iced tea, therefore, I figure my clients love iced tea too, and with the bar and beverage station in the new JAKE showroom and atelier, there is no better place or way to enjoy my favorite staple.

What’s your pet peeve when it comes to San Fran’s style?
My biggest pet peeve isn’t so much a specific aspect of SF style or lack thereof. Rather, people commonly make mention to me that they “wish people dressed up more” in San Francisco and yet they tell me this as they are wearing sweatpants or jeggings or some such casualwear. Now, I love casualwear and so I am not annoyed on that front, but what rubs me the wrong way is all the people who seem to want for more and yet don’t step up their own respective game. I mean – simply put – be the change you want to see in the world, ya know? Stop wishing San Francisco dressed better and, instead, show San Francisco how it is done.

Now, I love casual wear and so I am not annoyed on that front, but what rubs me the wrong way is all the people who seem to want to see more and yet don’t step up their own respective game. I mean – simply put – be the change you want to see in the world, ya know? Stop wishing San Francisco dressed better and, instead, show San Francisco how it is done.

JAKE, 619 Sansome St, San Francisco, (415) 527-7611