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Indie Industries

Raw Talent in Raw Times

The outlook appears bleak in the fashion world. Tales are leaden with designers left in precarious situations as they seek financial backers. Headlines lament established designers reigning in their runway productions. Then there are the obituaries of retail shops and those in the apparel trade who are going out of business. Amidst this harsh economic environment there is a bit of an oasis -- Indie Industries.

Three years ago, Indie Industries began as a group of five students from New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology. What initially showcased works of their own soon began to grow into a collective of 15 fellow designers who share in the design and production of their clothing and accessories for both men and women.

In 2006 the company moved to the West Coast where it initially settled on Berkeley’s Telegraph Avenue. By October 2008, the store relocated to a cozy loft on Columbus Avenue in North Beach. It is the new flagship, featuring works of the collective as well as Bay Area designers.

The new loft does not waste any space. The ground level carries all the men and women’s clothing as well as a wide range of accessories and tsotchkes. Menswear and accessories line the back wall that hosts a myriad of winter scarves ($22) in checks, argyle, plaid and graphic patterns. There is also an array of fedora hats ($24) and plenty of graphic tees from a number of San Francisco based labels such as Effie’s Heart, Artificial Flavor and Remix Culture.

Founder and lead designer of Indie Industries, Michael Stone Kim, designs a number of the merchandise as well. There are skinny ties screen printed with lethal pistols ($24) and my favorite -- a San Francisco Tee (sale price $10) in pink. The design is replete with a skyline of Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars and pagoda.

In the middle of the store rests a table of feathery earrings, chain necklaces and cuff bracelets. Two local designers, Ofina from San Francisco and Ibiss from Santa Clara can be found here next to a section of nontraditional wallets in various materials and colors. Wallets by Crank, in particular, have a recycling appeal. The wallets ($18) are made from inner tubes collected from Bay Area local bike shops and hand sewn here in San Francisco.

Indie Industries’ selection of womenswear draws from a number of designers from California and beyond. The French label, Neslay Paris, offers a number of jackets in various silhouettes and fabrics. My favorite is the funky black vintage print coat with black saucer buttons ($98).

Not to be missed is the loft itself. The first item that catches my eye is a glittery tromp l’oiel design of black beaded necklaces of skulls, crosses and lightening rods on a women’s grey tee by Michelle ($24). Nearby are beaded purses (originally $38 but marked to $11) that also shimmer at quite a discount.

The prices are all within means. Through the end of February, there’s a buy-one-get-second-item-for-half-off promotion that hopes to bust the recessionary doldrums. Even better, Indie Industries passed its own economic stimulus plan for local designers. Call the store for trunk shows on Sundays when a special local designer is featured. All proceeds of the sale go directly to the designer.

Although the economic climate hardly seems welcoming, Indie Industries certainly makes a collective effort to promote the new emerging talent finding a stake in the fashion business. It’s a great place to support our undiscovered local talent in threadbare times.