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Appel & Frank

Fashion That’s Frankly Appealing

You’d have to admit that San Francisco isn’t the fashion capital of the United States, but San Franciscans have their own great style and there are loads of local designers here currently creating unique clothes and accessories. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely you have the time to track down all of them down in the city’s boutiques. Other than discovering these treasures in local shops, you have to rely heavily on annual holiday sample sales to see their latest wares. But there’s a company called Appel & Frank that brings them all in one place for you.

Like many good big ideas, this one started small. In 2003, lifelong friends Karen Appel and Jody Frank invited eight designers and 40 guests into Karen’s small Noe Valley apartment. Today, the duo of Appel & Frank puts on at least four events a year in San Francisco, bringing over 65 designers together to attract over 700 shoppers. In the next year, they plan to expand to Los Angeles and possibly more cities.

For each event, Appel & Frank invite a selection of roughly 80% local and 20% non-local designers from as far away as Rhode Island, and each one pays a fee to sell their goods. Shoppers normally pay $10 to enter the event, or $25 for their entry fee plus a gift bag stuffed with goodies such as Bliss Day Spa Lotion, Belly Bar nutrition bars, Ghirardelli chocolate, coupons, a complimentary drink pass and more. As an added bonus, a portion of proceeds from each event goes to a local charity. At the last event this month, the Fall Fashion Fete, it was the Hamilton Family Center, an organization that provides shelter, support and housing assistance for homeless families.

Attendees at these events can browse the merchandise, chat with designers, and get a gratis makeover from Benefit Cosmetics as they sip cocktails. As you make your way through the throng, DJs spin, and shoppers nosh on sushi from Mas Sake. As Appel & Frank’s marketing slogan says, it’s a perfect girls’ night out. But men shouldn’t be discouraged from showing up, as there is some men’s merchandise such as belts and shirts. Plus, wouldn’t you score big if you came home and presented your sweetie with a great gift bag?

With the numbers of impressive designers, I can’t pretend to do them all justice here, but I will call out a few to give you a flavor of the occasion.

At the Fall Fashion Fete, specialty sweets were available from “That Takes the Cake” (http://www.saralynnscupcakes.com/index.html) in yummy varieties like “Bunny Bites” (carrot cake with walnuts and pineapple topped with cream cheese frosting) or Chocolamento (chocolate devils food cake topped with mint buttercream cheese frosting and a piece of mint chocolate), and Coco-luxe Confections (http://www.coco-luxe.com/default.asp) in bite size morsels in flavors such as Green Tea with honey white chocolate ganache and Banana split with milk chocolate banana ganache, sprinkled with dried cherries.

Fun and twisted note cards from Bald Guy Greetings (http://www.baldguygreetings.com/index.html) and sophisticated letterpress stationary and invitations from Leila Press (http://www.leilapress.com/) are there with a printed message for any milestone or mishap.

Among the numerous clothing designers was the standout Al’s Attire from North Beach (http://alsattire.com/), where you can select your design, fabric, lining, buttons and details made to fit, with designs inspired by the classic lines of vintage Americana.

Just a couple of the many shiny trinkets on display that night were the hammered silver pendants with hanging garnet stones from Andrea Wysocki Jewelry (http://www.andreawysocki.com/necklaces/index.html) and one-of-a-kind glass necklaces, bracelets and buckles from 9 Manning Square (http://www.9manningsquare.com/).

To tote your possessions, whimsical oilcloth bags for carrying your little essential items such as cosmetics and pencils from Hilside Bags (http://www.hilsidebags.com/) and handbags made of uncommon fabrics and notions from Chanteuse Designs (http://www.chanteusedesigns.com/) were at hand for purchase.

As the designers change from event to event, it’s not guaranteed they’ll be there next time. Check online for store locations and online sales.

Coming up is “Babes and Babies,” which will be held on Sunday, September 30th from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at JCC of San Francisco, Kanbar Hall, 3200 California Street at Presidio. This event for moms and babies will feature 50 designers of infant and children’s clothes, accessories, etc. at discounted prices. Entry fee for this event is $10, which includes a gift bag. Admission is free for children under 10. Tickets are available online https://www.appelandfrank.com/tickets/, and parking is available.

Among the designers at this event will be Skipping Hippos (www.skippinghippos.com), who was also at the Fall Fashion Fete. They make cute and comfortable ponchos for babies and toddlers. Also slated to show up is Go Baby Slings (http://www.gobabyslings.com/), maker of cozy and warm baby carriers, and YoYo Monkey (http://www.yoyomonkey.com/), creators of handmade sock monkeys, animal hats, and baby bibs.

The last time I went, the line out the door was painfully long, so plan to get their early and grab a good a friend to chat with or a good book to read while you wait.