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Residents Apparel Gallery

A Haven For Self Expression

Hand-made, one-of-a-kind pieces and art articulated into clothing await in an attractive space tucked away inconspicuously on Octavia in
Hayes Valley. Stylish shoppers who venture into R.A.G. -- acronym for Residents Apparel Gallery --will find themselves immersed in wardrobe
choices both comfortable yet edgy and within reach of the non-superfluous wallet.

This clean and immaculately organized treasure trove is the brainchild of Blakely Bass, a former pre-med student who found her calling in shining the spotlight on local up-and-coming designers. Bass opened R.A.G. in December of 2002 at the age of 27 and started with 20 designers who filled her shop with fashionable pieces for femmes. Today, over 50 designers share the space and male shoppers may find choice boudoir additions as well.

Opening a clothing store was no childhood dream career of Bass's. It was not until after obtaining a BS in Pre-med and holding a variety of jobs in her 20s including AutoCad drafting for environmental engineers, wastewater filter sales and bartending that the idea for a San Francisco-designer-exclusive store sprouted. Bass meshed with local designers at events such as Chillin' (an annual evening showcasing the work of 60 fashion designers, 60 painters and photographers, and 60 filmmakers) and Junk in the Trunk (a sample sale that featured indie San Francisco designers). Realizing that our beloved City lacked a space where shoppers could taste the fruits of local creativity and know their spending supported local artists, Bass began to piece together a concept fusing art gallery with fashion, aided by friend Karen Stafko.

Art and fashion are not far removed. However, one of the most endearing and admirable facets of Bass's operation is that R.A.G. is not merely a gallery of artistic pieces, decorative and wearable. Here the designers are as much on display as the items they have consigned. Bass requires each designer to submit a written biography that includes stats on their background in fashion design, inspirations for their line and contact information. As a result, visitors not only get a personal glimpse at the mastermind of some fabulous piece, but can contact designers to, say, purchase more pieces or commission their work to be sold in additional stores or featured in a fashion shoot.

At R.A.G. designers pay to rent racks and shelf spaces on which to sell their wares. Designers provide retail prices for everything displayed and are paid a generous 65% of their asking price if the item sells, as compared to a 50% profit common of other consigning stores in San Francisco. Since its inception, R.A.G. has also evolved towards a co-op where some designers help out in the store in return for display space.

Jennifer Lynne is one such co-op worker and embodies Bass's cause. Lynne studied at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York with an emphasis in intimate apparel. Selling her wares at R.A.G. has allowed her to network with other designers and to experiment with different designs to gauge whether to follow one vein or close off another. In addition to her Porcelynne Lingerie line, Lynne is also experimenting with pintucked jeans, belts, and other clothing. She has brought new designers into the fold at R.A.G., most recently Jocelyn M behind Cicatri* -- whose pieces tend toward button up shirts for women and men with a d.i.y./punk flavor - a la stencils, funky stitching and seemingly Rorschach-inspired patches. At $50, such a gem is hardly more expensive and infinitely cooler than the formulaic Gap button-up.

The hot sellers of the moment are skirts, cropped pants and Dutchy bags. Everything comes in a variety of colors and prices. There are many one-of-a-kind pieces and no guarantee that everything is available in every size. (Hint -- here's where designer contact info may come in handy.)

Tatyana De Pavloff's line Baryshnya includes intricately hand-painted tote bags and hand-made tee shirts (both $40) of the softest materials featuring characters reminiscent of Junko Mizuno's work. Fun knitted tanks and dresses by Nikk ($80-$100 a piece), raw and jagged skirts from Allison Nelson's Red Threads, Jenna Stark's fun skirts in dark fabrics with bright turquoise insets ($82), flirty shrugs by Miss Maya in delicate, sparkly fabrics ($40) and whimsical T-shirts in interesting lengths and cuts from Sarah Collins' line Fancy the F Word are only a very brief sampling of the variety visitors will find for the ladies in way of clothing. There is also an expanding men's collection -- think T-shirts and button-ups reworked with paint, unexpected stitching and innovative washes. Just in are reworked ties by Gytha Mander at $75 that combine multiple neck pieces seamlessly. Jessica Summers' I. Kohl line includes clothing for babies as wee as three months and priced in the $20s.

Neither quantity nor quality are in short supply in the accessories department either. With so many options in earrings alone, the accessory-fan faces some tough decisions. Doe Eyes, Idle Hands, Luvkat and 7 Yards are only a few of the earring collections to choose from. Think chandeliers, drops, charms, simple pearls, basic metals, candy pop colors. Then there are Queen Puff Puff and Nepacena bags to choose from in all sorts of textures and hues, among others. The paintings and drawings of Mark Elliot also adorn the walls and are extremely affordable at $25 and above. Additionally, R.A.G. holds sample sales in April, August and December and hosts fine art openings twice a year. The next sample sale is April 16.

With R.A.G., Blakely Bass is blessing budding and talented designers wings to fly. Visitors are lucky to be able to choose art for wear and/or display that is personal, fresh and unique to the wearer as they are the designer. We are reminded that San Francisco is neither Los Angeles, New York or Milan, but a haven for self expression.