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Harputs Union

Taking it Downtown

Imagine you are stranded on an island and you only have one dress to wear. And not only do you have just one dress, but you must attend a chic cocktail party. Well, hopefully your dress is the structured linen seven-pieces-in-one “Three Hole” dress ($325-$500) from Harputs Union.

Over the last 30 years Harputs has undergone a metamorphosis, beginning with the sale of vintage sneakers in Oakland, to the expanded Harputs Market on Fillmore Street that featured avant-garde fashions, to the just-opened Harputs Union on Geary Street, between Stockton Street and Grant Ave., steps away from Union Square.

Though the new store will continue carrying brands such as Martin Margiela and Yohji Yamamoto’s Y-3, which will be featured upstairs on the second level, the focus will be on the designs created by the four-person in-house design team, of which owner Gus Harput is a part. With over 25 years in retail fashion, Gus and team are making a go of their own line. The new space, with its tall ceilings, marble back wall, and minimalist décor showcase the textures and shapes of the designs.

Like his father Turk, who essentially started the store when he traded his Volvo for a 1,000 pairs of vintage sneakers, Gus is resourceful and finds unique items in overlooked places. A meeting with a former Hong Kong tailor led him to a score of high quality vintage Scottish tweeds and other fabrics that are at least 20 years. These fabrics are now being incorporated into the in-house designs.

Most Harputs creations can be customized with fabrics of your choice. For example, the new men’s leather jacket with a detachable hood and front pocket big enough for a wine bottle can run anywhere from $1,600-$2,200, depending on the material you select for the shell and lining. You will need to the designers at least one or two weeks for the creation to be completed.

When approaching their custom designs, the Harputs designers are not looking to create their next season’s line, but rather experiments with cuts and shapes for signature pieces that can be worn for many seasons, and in many ways. For example, if you bought all six pieces in the current line, you could get at least 40 different looks.

Take the “Three Hole” dress mentioned above. Depending on which way you put it on and work it, it can be worn as a wraparound dress, a vest, a vest with a scarf, a dress with an open back, a cape, and more.

The Swacket ($500-$700) provides up to 12 different looks, including a short coat, cowl neck jacket, lab coat, asymmetrical dress, and a hoodie. Plus, you could potentially find a different way to wear it that may not have already been considered.

In fact, that’s the kind of feedback that inspires the work of Harputs. The designers listen to their customers and refine their work accordingly. They aren’t looking to trends, but to things that people will love to wear that will last over the years.

As a boutique department store, Harputs will not only cultivate their in-house designs, but also local talent like San Francisco’s own shoe designer Martha Davis, whose creations sell for $500-$700.

Other accessories, many of which date back to the 1980s, include Comme des Garcons wallets ($75-$200) and vintage sunglasses ($200-$500) from brands like Christian Dior, Gucci, Drakkar and more. Again, these were a rare find, sourced from a warehouse full of sunglasses where the stock of unsold inventory from eyewear shops was stored.

There’s also a selection of vintage belt buckles with men’s names and logos for everything from car companies to the NRA to Desert Storm. For $100-$150, you can have Harputs add a leather belt of your choice, and presto, a new swanky belt.

If you visit now, the store is a bit of a work in progress. The upstairs area is not yet completed, nor is the Harputs website, which is being redesigned to create a new online presence.

Knowing full well that there are people who won’t bat an eyelash at $500 sunglasses, I still have my own prejudice going into a clothing store that charges these kinds of prices, especially during a recession. But, I’m naturally swayed by Harputs’ custom-made local designs, especially because they are chic, unique, and of high quality. Meaning, It’s clothing dollars that would be well spent.