Fashion Incubator San Francisco (FiSF) launches a pop-up shop at Bespoke, Westfield SF featuring 5 emerging designers – Jessie Liu, Jeff Ladra, Kanjana “Cake” Carlos, Peter Papas, and Stephanie Bodnar. The pop-up store is open from May 28 to June 27, 2015.

Photos by Christian Hadidjaja

The fashion business acceleration program Fashion Incubator San Francisco (FiSF) has been a great supporter of San Francisco Bay Area fashion industry. Its program is geared towards individual mentoring from industry experts and business development professionals, with which emerging apparel and accessories design entrepreneurs can benefit from a more wholesome skill set.

FiSF and San Francisco Emerging Designers

I can hardly believe it’s been almost three years since I found out Art Institute of California San Francisco (AiCA SF) graduate Justin Jamison joined the first FiSF season in 2012. Since then, I’ve seen many work from emerging designers who have enrolled in FiSF program. And all of them are super talented!

Dahae Kim, whose work I first encountered during Melange 2011 Fashion Show, joined FiSF program in 2014. Then there’s the standout designer from AiCA SF 2012 fashion show Lia Larrea, who also joined FiSF in 2014. Last year, during Suit Up for Equality, I also got to see pieces from Justin’s fellow FiSF first season mates Bethany Meuleners and Sabah Mansoor Husain of Mansoor Scott, and Tony Sananikone of Sounthavong. Jake Wall of Artful Gentleman (FiSF 2013) hosted the event, which also featured Stephanie Bodnar (FiSF 2014) and beloved local designer Cari Borja.

Since its start in 2012, FiSF has supported and launched 15 businesses, resulting in 285 jobs created. Twelve designers from FiSF are selling apparel through local boutiques, pop-up shops and online. It’s great to see the impact this incubator program has for SF Bay Area fashion and design community!

FiSF Season Four’s 5 Emerging Designers

This fourth season introduces us to five designers in residence: Jessie Liu of Simple Pair, Jeff Ladra of Pladra, Kanjana “Cake” Carlos of Kajan Cake, Peter Papas of Blade + Blue, and returning designer Stephanie Bodnar of Evgenia. Until end of June, you have plenty of chances to meet them and shop their creations at FiSF pop-up store at Bespoke, located in Westfield San Francisco’s 4th floor.

Aimed to be the ecosystem to breed innovation and collaboration, Bespoke is a combination of co-working, technology demonstration, and event spaces rolled into one. When I walked around Bespoke’s many rooms and sections during the launch party on May 28, I honestly got a little dizzy from all the actions. The energy is super charged and so many things were happening at once in one giant space, and I wasn’t sure the lack of focus was a good thing.

Inside the FiSF pop-up store, however, everything is clear. We spent some time talking to all five designers after first saying our greetings to FiSF Executive Director Jeanne Allen and his husband Marc Grant. Thank you designer Monique Zhang for introducing us to Jeanne and Marc!

Jessie Liu – Simple Pair

I had the pleasure to talk to Jessie and her pattern maker Joon that night. It’s clear how talented this Academy of Art University graduate is; her dresses are elegantly constructed to mold into the wearer’s body. For her first ever collection, she collaborated with Chinese painter Feng Guo to create the prints on her textile. For her separates, she creates silk and stretchy cotton tops combined with slim bottoms.

She takes great care in fitting and finishing of each garments, making sure not to degrade the design. She emphasizes great craftsmanship and have her garments all made in USA. I love her designs!

Jessie Liu

Jeff Ladra – Pladra

Jeff creates this line of outdoor flannel shirts for outdoorsmen. Great for fishing and hunting as well as hitting bars, he said. I’ll drink to that! Deceivingly detailed and of quality, Pladra shirts are crisper on the outside yet soft to the touch inside, and the plaid lines match on the pocket area. Wolf, fox, and other wildlife prints are also thoughtfully added as a nice touch. The quality and construction of each shirts reflect Jeff’s focus on mastering how to make them.

Jeff Ladra

Kanjana “Cake” Carlos – Kajan Cake

I first saw Cake’s work during Define Beauty Fashion Show in 2011, during which she was still operating under Kajan Padraig label with a fellow designer. The ornate diagonal slashes have been her signature style, and they are actually a lot more complicated when you see the details up close.

There’s no doubt that she’s very skilled even with couture techniques, all of which she use for constructing her fun designs. Oh, and do you know that Kanjana means “golden” in Sanskrit? What a beautiful name.

Kajan “Cake” Carlos

Peter Papas – Blade + Blue

I love the timeless vibe Peter’s Blade + Blue corner has. His heritage-inspired men’s apparel highlighting the 50s and 60s style shines through, and it’s fun to examine his product offerings, from slim-fit boxer shorts (his best seller) made in San Leandro, bowties made in Santa Rosa, suspenders made in Emeryville, and a range of comfortable and handsome shirts made in USA.

What’s special for me personally is his use of premium Japanese fabrics, which I am always a fan of. ‘Fire and Ice’ is his theme for this collection, combining warm tones with cool blue colors. They’re all very tastefully made; a true testament of Peter’s vast experience in the industry. Peter also dishes this nugget of wisdom regarding his journey of growing his label, “People WANT to help you. You just have to do it and ask!” I cannot agree more.

Peter Papas

Stephanie Bodnar – Evgenia

Seeking continued mentorship and opportunities, Stephanie is the first FiSF designer who returns for a second season. Not only her vintage lingerie designs are sexy and feminine, they are also beautifully made. They’re for the “modern heartbreakers,” women who are confident to wear her pieces outside of the boudoir territory. Hmm, I’d definitely love to have her corset and rock it!

Stephanie Bodnar

So there they are, folks. Please visit them on the Westfield San Francisco’s 4th floor, at the FiSF pop-up store! These Fashion Incubator San Francisco designers are very talented and they are definitely worthy of your support. If you’re not in the SF Bay Area, you can visit them online and see what they are all about. Cheers to the local fashion entrepreneurs and design community!

Thanks for reading; until next time,

Photos by Christian Hadidjaja

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