25/06/2024 6:41 AM

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The Queen Of Beauty

A Shifting Style Landscape | Comstock’s magazine

This story is part of our July 2022 Young Professionals print issue. To subscribe, click here.


For a second there, it seemed as though the pandemic’s grip on
business was choking fashion into a sweatpants-clad coma. In
2020, many forecasters predicted a stalling of style, a demise
brought on by the universal embrace of athleisure. But like many
mindsets that shifted during COVID-19, fashion too was just
repositioning itself. Americans still ordered a lot of new
clothing while wearing sweatpants, and
according to data insights firm NDP
, the U.S. apparel
industry has gained momentum over the last year. In 2021, the
industry brought in “$246.2 billion in revenue … an increase of
more than $61 billion versus 2020, and the highest dollar volume
generated in more than 10 years.”

So the fashion industry is growing, but in what direction? The
answer is murky, and not only because of the uncertainty stirred
up by COVID-19. The spectrum of styles is expanding in disparate
directions. Just as the superabundance of niche streaming
services obliterated our once-shared foundation of network
television, the hyperspeed of digital trends has transported us
to a universe of possibilities. 

This broadening taste is apparent on a regional level too. Ask
the Capital Region’s fashion community their opinions of the
area’s style and you’ll get a wide cross-section of answers —
“casual,” “hipster,” “eclectic” and “changing.” 

“I don’t think it’d be fair or accurate to say Sacramento has one
specific style or vibe,” says Lacadia Johnson, owner of Cuffs,
the 18-year-old boutique in Midtown Sacramento. “In fact I’d say
it’s more eclectic or varied in that way than a lot of other
cities. A signature style, if we ever land on one, is most
certainly still in the making.”

Retailers embrace the hyperlocal — and the internet

Johnson remembers when Sacramento was woefully behind the times.
When she first opened Cuffs, a retail store selling trendy
women’s clothing in 2004, e-commerce wasn’t yet pervasive and
social media wasn’t the envy machine and marketing behemoth it is
today. (Instagram and the style-centric social platform
Lookbook.nu, where bloggers would post photos of their outfits,
wouldn’t start influencing consumer habits until around 2010).
Trends would eventually trickle down once they’d been
mass-manufactured through commercial retail and pop
culture. 

Now, Sacramento style moves at a hastened clip. Johnson reflects
on the change she’s seen since those early Cuffs days: “I’d say a
lot of style genres that I used to see when buying in L.A. or
visiting other big cities were slow to come to Sacramento but are
pretty prevalent now. It’s fun to see more experimental style
developing here.” 

Situated on Midtown’s J Street, Cuffs
originally drew clientele via foot traffic, but Johnson currently
counts Instagram as
“the principle driver for online business.” Web sales became a
significant contributor to Cuffs’ success in recent years,
especially since the pandemic. Johnson takes pride in being one
of the block’s “long-standing mainstays” and hopes the
neighborhood will return to its pre-2020 stride. “Pre-pandemic,
the block was filled with small businesses … and it’s thankfully,
slowly but surely, getting back to that level of saturation,” she
says. In spring, Johnson moved Cuffs to a more visible storefront
on J Street that shows off the store’s merchandise.

Johnson’s longevity is based partly on her own style instincts;
her strategy has always been to model Cuffs’ target customer
after herself. “When I was in my 20s and bar hopping, my
collection reflected that. As I’ve matured, so has the
collection, and so have my customers … which is nice because
honestly, everyone has a little more buying power in their 30s
and 40s.”

Cuffs’ boho aesthetic has held up for nearly two decades, but
streetwear has maintained an even longer hold on the Capital
Region. One of Sacramento’s oldest streetwear brands, Getta Clue,
celebrates its 30th anniversary this July. Its designs include
T-shirts and hats with hometown-centric messages like “Sac Skate”
and “Sacramento Versus Everybody.” Now headquartered at Arden
Fair Mall after moving their boutique from Downtown Commons last
month, owners Justin Bilbao and Scott Gilbert opened their store
first on Broadway in 1992 “before it was even called streetwear.”
Sacramento’s streetwear scene has expanded since then and now
includes brands like All Good, Official and Lurk Hard.

Bilbao describes the classification as a confluence of music
(emceeing and DJing), art, fashion, skate culture and graffiti.
“We were kind of part of the graffiti scene in the very early
years,” says Bilboa. “A lot of those people were our customers,
and a lot of the brands that originated came from that
culture.” 

This symbiosis is the crux of their success. They collaborate
with local artists on clothing designs, share their work on the
walls of the store, and host spoken word parties and other
creative events, and in turn the creative scene supports
them. 

Learn about the local brands selling trendy Sacramento merch here.

Several Getta Clue employees have gone on to influence
the culture of the region. Curtis Currier, once the store DJ,
co-founded Yellow Brick Group, a creative agency that specializes
in experimental events and marketing, including a recent digital
campaign for Getta Clue. Vanessa Lopez, once a manager at Getta
Clue’s former sister store, Ikon, just celebrated 10 years of
running her own boutique, Heart. “Getta Clue has been an
incubator for a lot of other things that have come out in
Sacramento, whether it be other brands or other designers or
other shop owners,” says Gilbert. 

Bilbao and Gilbert credit Getta Clue’s endurance to its in-person
shoppers, although they acknowledge e-commerce is necessary to
“staying alive.” (They’re relaunching their site soon.) “Our love
and our passion still lands with brick and mortar because that’s
our tie to the community. So we’re a place where people come to
meet and talk. … We like to be there for people to meet and learn
and grow stuff.” 

Sewing the seeds of success 

Menswear designer Samuel Parkinson looks up to greet a customer
from his perch at his sewing machine that sits in the middle of
his shop. The cotton denim and vintage wool garments that
surround his workstation make up a mellow motley of oatmeal,
indigo and army green. Some pieces feature a restrained patchwork
of materials for a color blocking effect that creates structure
and contrast. A mannequin wears The Vault 1 Strap
Overalls
, a sturdy yet playful silhouette that encapsulates
Parkinson’s fusion of classic Americana and new school
streetwear. 

Samuel Parkinson has been designing his own clothing lines for 15
years. His current perspective embraces global influences ranging
from American heritage to Japanese modern. (Photo by Susan Yee)

Parkinson’s been at it a while, designing his own lines in
various iterations for the last 15 years. His brands — the
custom-made Bespoke by Samuel Rose and
ready-to-wear streetwear line b:SR — are made and sold out of his
studio and retail space in downtown Sacramento’s WAL Public
Market. (He shares the space with the Moroccan rug shop
Kechmara.) Parkinson has made custom pieces for pop artist David
Garibaldi using his artwork, like a jacket made from his painting
of Mick Jagger’s lips.

The entrepreneur has been intentional and resolute about his
career, which he built the old-fashioned way just under two
decades ago — that is, at design school, not using online tools
like instructional YouTube videos. Parkinson attended the
now-closed International Academy of Design Technology in
Sacramento before taking on pattern-making gigs in San Francisco
and building his own business, which he refused to relegate to a
side hustle. “I recognize this may be privileged because I have a
safety net” — the ability to move home with his parents, which he
has done before — “but I just told myself, I’m not going to have
a degree in fashion design and marketing and work at Starbucks,”
he says. “I will be hungry before I go in a different
direction.” 

Parkinson describes his customer as someone “on the mature side
of streetwear,” who understands high quality fabrics. (Photo by
Susan Yee)

Parkinson says he wants to be the reason
why Sacramento, a city better known for politics and health care,
has a fashion industry. (The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
reports most of America’s fashion designers work in large cities
such as New York or Los Angeles.) He sees potential to be a
pioneer in the Sacramento design landscape by sharing his
experience and connections with the next generation of designers.
“If you want to learn how to put in a zipper … I will give. I
have four apprentices, one intern, and I teach two private
classes.” 

Brooke Arthur started her brand YoYo Bazaar later in
her career with no less chutzpah, but significantly more tulle,
lace and sequins. Her experience in digital marketing helped her
enter the marketplace last year with a strong signature look and
consistent messaging to promote YoYo’s vibrant, vintage-fusion
brand. She is one of many entrepreneurs who turned their hobbies
into small businesses during the pandemic.

With YoYo Bazaar’s vibrant brand, owner Brooke Arthur creates
upcycled vintage garments. (Photo courtesy of YoYo Bazaar)

In March 2021, Arthur was eight months into her move
to Sacramento from downtown Los Angeles, and she’d just quit her
decade-long job as a marketing executive for a whiskey brand. “In
my free time with the pandemic, I started embroidering this
jacket,” she says. “Local Sacramento people and friends that had
seen me post this jacket were like, ‘Oh my God, you should sell
those.’” 

Arthur knew it would take more than a cool jacket. “Because I
have a marketing background, I really don’t believe in building
brands when you don’t have a really unique selling point,” she
says. “My vibe is, like, the more eccentric side of things. I
think living in San Francisco for 14 years, I had a really strong
connection with the gay (and) trans world, and it was always this
really flamboyant disco, neon, fringe, fur … just being
fabulous.” 

YoYo’s collection is a kaleidoscope of upcycled vintage garments
Arthur has updated with campy flourishes like patches, grommets,
studs or embroidery. She sourced some of the latter from a book
of 1960s embroidery transfers. She reworks many of her vintage
finds, turning a rose-printed towel into a cheeky crop top, giving a
denim vest a crocheted
alter-ego
in the back and slashing a technicolor muumuu in
two and redesigning it as a matching
set

Brooke Arthur styles a model at her former studio in East
Sacramento, where she shot look books and operated a retail shop.
(Photo by Andrew Calisterio, courtesy of YoYo Bazaar)

Rather than answer to market trends with
sure-to-sell basics (“black leather coats right now is a good
example,” she says), Arthur would rather sell clothes that stand
out: “You know, like a wild paisley color-pop ‘60s go-go dress.”
The right customers tend to find her — at the events she pops up
at or at her brick-and-mortar store, which until spring was
located on a retail strip in East Sacramento’s Sutter Park. 

She recently decided to minimize overhead by moving the bazaar —
disco ball and all — to her spare room. She predicts the market
may soon hit a “vintage plateau” as pandemic-era vintage sellers
give up the biz. “And then you’re going to hopefully have people
like me that just still continue to do it.”

 What’s old is new

The move toward vintage can also be attributed to the shift
toward sustainability. Just look to TikTok (or at least this
writer’s algorithm) to see eco-conscious influencers post their
vintage hauls and share how to look chic while creating less
waste. 

Thomas sources her collections from estate sales, thrift stores
and appointments with individuals selling their collections.
(Photo by Susan Yee)

Briana Thomas, owner of Rosen boutique in Oak
Park, has been in the vintage dealing business for 12 years.
While studying fashion design at Fashion Institute of Technology
in New York and working in production design for fashion houses
like Diane Von Furstenberg, she became “a little disillusioned
with the production process and how much waste really went into
making clothing.” 

To contribute something more in line with her values (and to help
pay her New York rent), she started a vintage business as a side
hustle, selling online and at markets in Brooklyn. She brought
Rosen to Sacramento in 2019.

Thomas describes Rosen’s inventory as “things that can be really
easily worn day to day and mixed in with modern clothing.” She’s
observed customers’ shock at the high quality and comfort of her
store’s vintage pieces, which she credits to the natural fibers
used more often in yesteryear. “My current collection has really
transitioned into silk, linen, cotton, wool,” she says, adding
that fabrics like silk are superior to polyester in terms of feel
and movement.

As a transplant from New York, she sees Capital Region fashion as
being in flux. “When I first moved here four years ago … I
noticed a lot of fast fashion, and now I have noticed that there
is a mindset shift, especially when I do markets and get to
interact with a lot of new people, that they are just wanting
quality pieces.”

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