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Green Carpets to Red Carpets

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 9/11/2015 Juanita MORE!
LIGHT BULB © F. Verhelst, Papafrezzo Photography via Getty Images LIGHT BULB

I've been a big fan of Modern Appealing Clothing since it first opened in 1980 in San Francisco by the Ospital family, comprised of siblings Ben and Chris, and their mother Jeri. The shop was located on Post Street just a few blocks from Polk. This area has always been a shopping mecca for me since I was in high school. Polk Gulch was lined with queer-owned shops and bars. During the time the Ospitals opened shop in this neighborhood it quickly started to gentrify. Over the years I would come back to M.A.C. over and over again. As a client and friend, I once had the honor of showcasing one of my outfits by couturier Mr. David in the window. It was a gold faux crocodile pleather pants suit.
This family owned store has become quite a fashion staple for the the seriously stylish in San Francisco. Big name fashion has become so easily accessible in our modern world -- making it very easy to follow trends, wear logos and show off the trendiest of-the-moment garments. I have always applauded the fact that M.A.C. invested in local designers and artists, empowering their growth.
The Ospital family has always been huge non-profit supporters. Over the years their generosity has been greatly noted by the community. For the past 10 years I have been throwing an annual Pride event that supports a different non-profit each year. I joke with them that though they've been a benefactor every single year that I've thrown the event, they've never attended. But that's because it always falls during men's fashion week in Milan. Through this essential fashion pilgrimage, the Ospitals consistently return regenerated, boasting an expertly curated Japanese and Belgian design-emphasized selection of singular garments to better serve their community in yet another manner.
I can't think of many places I usually shop where I end up hanging out in the store for hours and sit around talking to the staff. They are all welcoming and extremely knowledgeable of the merchandise in the store. They treat me like I'm some sort of celebrity when I walk in. The decor of the store aptly reflects an aesthetic that is deeply rooted in a love of all things artistic. The entrance of the store is literally a jungle. You would think you were entering a garden - but it quickly flows into rows of beautifully constructed garments. Artwork hangs from every available wall space in the store and often I have arrived to a huge installation plopped down in the center of the room, everything being celebrated for what it is.
Knowing the Ospitals for close to 30 years, I feel as though they are part of my extended family in San Francisco. If you ever have the chance to sit down to lunch with them you're in for a treat. Expect stories and conversation that are both local and global, high-brow and low-brow, and always filled with dreams and romance. I'm so happy that they made the choice to settle in San Francisco and end up in Hayes Valley.
How long have you been in Hayes Valley?
12 years, but this month we are 33 years old. Rumor has it we sold Fred and Wilma Flintstone their wedding clothes.
What attracted you to open your business in Hayes Valley?
Hayes Valley has always been home to the rebels and the freethinkers of San Francisco, dreamers really.
In the 90's you moved the shop to North Beach -- splitting the women's and men's departments. How was that transition for you?
In the 90's we felt the need to focus on the nature of dressing well in a more custom clientele kind of way, with proper fittings and tailoring, same as we still do today. Clothing from designers like Vivienne Westwood and Helmut Lang spoke to a more salon-like setting. This felt closer to the clothes that were being produced than the 80's Wild Emporium point of view of our other store (trust us we had fun exploring that too!).
You were doing Pop-Up Shops in your store before they were trendy. The dog boutique George started at your Post Street location -- tell me about your involvement with upcoming businesses.
We have always tried to be authentic to the NOW experience. We try to find the pulse point of what is happening today in products and make sure that it is user friendly. Listening to our clients informs us about the future a little more pragmatically. Maybe it's clothing that gets stuck in bike wheels or tight skirts that twist climbing a Muni bus, we bring that back to our creators and fine tune with them. Upcoming designers create from their experience, presenting dreams in the form of products that move our modern world. It is exciting for our clients and ourselves to be a part of this. We all love a BIG NEW ADVENTURE, and that is our reason for having the shop!
What informs your process of curating new designers to carry in the store? Would you say there is a M.A.C. aesthetic?
Yes. We love the future. Like Walter Van Beirendonck has stated, "Fuck the Past." We like to think we have one foot in traditional haberdashery and another pushing the envelope of new ideas. And sharing the struggle to create new ideas that sell is exciting! Creative people like success too! Like Magaret Mead anthropology we try to dress the tribes of San Francisco in clothes that work for their lives. For example, we have more clothes for Green carpets than Red carpets, and by that we mean people are more likely to buy clothes to wear for the farmers market as opposed to the Oscars, though we do both. New designers inform us about new movements in culture. Also, we research all of our new vendors' manufacturing before we take them on, because there is a lot of bad labor out there and we want to ensure to our clients that responsibility.
Over the years you have supported some amazing local designers -- can you tell me a few that have gone on to great success?
There have been a lot! In the 80's we started with people like Nick Graham (Joe Boxer), Marc Jacobs, Anna Sui, Todd Oldham, Dema and Vivienne Westwood. Local or not they all continue to speak in their artistically real voices in design today.
What do you say to people who feel San Francisco is the city that style missed?
We feel that San Francisco is ahead of the curve. Our lives reflect a life near nature, near friends and near the kitchen. The whole world is just catching up to that! And though we are not a fashion capital, our style matches our lives.
It's evident from all the portrait paintings on display in the store that you are great lovers of art. Why the portraiture in particular and what do you feel it lends to the way your space is merchandised?
What started out as a fun birthday gift more than twenty years ago now is a full-fledged obsession. When we find a new one, we get to rescue someone's creative expression about someone they love. Those portraits make us think of the lost story or scenario of who these anonymous people are and the artists who painted them. In some ways we like to think of our merchandise as creative adoption, first lovingly created by the designer than loved by the client who enjoys it as well for different reasons.
What is your aesthetic when merchandising the store?
Well, we have never gone with the Emergency room school of decor! Right now our clothing sits with art from Ann Hamilton, Cindy Sherman and Creative Growth art center. Our rugs and table toppings are woven by textile artist Valerie Gnadt from repurposed garments. There is some nice Dries Van Noten and Martin Margiela in the work!
How did the idea of a family-owned clothing boutique come to fruition? It seems rare for a mother, daughter, and son to all be on the same aesthetical wavelength.
We all love one another and all of us were working in New York at Sak's Bloomingdale and Lord and Taylor ( though from California) The shop was a way for us to not get real jobs and live in the city we love working with designers we love. Although after our first 20 years it became apparent that this was our real job!
I never feel pressured to buy something at the store if it isn't right -- that is not the norm for retail shopping. Has this been one of your own personal views on shopping?
It is important to not feel ignored as a guest and also for us to be present and available for the client. We like to present the clothing in an informative and respectful way as much as possible. It is the same as a first date -- you always want them to come back, and maybe get serious! But we will do it on the first date too!

Following fashion and trends can be exhausting -- what is it that keeps it fresh for you?
Free thinkers and Artists rock our world! And San Francisco has plenty of them.
Typically Art and Fashion students come in the shop to view the clothes we sell, wearing the best stuff culled from thrift shops, boyfriends, and girlfriends! Last month a young woman came in wearing her Grandmother's doily as a turban, then we went to Paris for fashion week and there they were on the runway! Style is never about money, age or gender! The rest of the world follows them.

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