- The San Francisco Bay Area is well known as a hub of innovation, particularly in tech.
- 11 online clothing startups, including industry disruptors Stitch Fix, Everlane, and ThirdLove, are proving that the area’s penchant for innovation extends into the world of fashion as well.
- By making use of data, cool and sustainable fabrics, and personalized solutions, they’re signaling to the rest of the world to pay attention to San Francisco – for more than just its tech scene.
In a fast-paced game of word associations, you’re more likely to shout out “tech” when the card for San Francisco/Bay Area is drawn, before you even begin to consider “fashion” or “clothing.”
On the other side of the country, New York City – home to Fashion Week, boutique-ridden SoHo, and the offices of iconic fashion magazines – might more confidently assume the role as a top fashion capital of the world.
Still, a group of clothing startups is proving that fashion born in San Francisco has its place, too. Some of the most talked-about industry game-changers, including Stitch Fix, Everlane, and ThirdLove, were founded in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Their proximity to the unique innovation happening in San Francisco and the nearby Silicon Valley provides a strong impetus to weave tech and sustainable practices into the DNA of their businesses. The Bay has long been home to new ways of thinking about how we live, and with these startups, it’s now also changing how we dress and shop for clothes.
A few themes connect these San Francisco-based clothing startups, including the use of data to create customized or personalized solutions, missions of ethical and sustainable consumption, and the belief that clothing can do more than just look pretty. Not that SF has ever needed help getting people to pay attention to it, but now you’ll have reason to consider it in a new light.
Learn more about the 11 San Francisco-based clothing startups that are changing the fashion industry:
Everlane is the antithesis of traditional fast, trendy fashion and every minimalist dresser’s dream brand. Just take a look at its best sellers for proof: classic stretch jeans, basic leather flats, and $100 cashmere crew sweaters aren’t the stuff of runway buzz, but they are the pieces you’ll wear and keep for many, many years to come. It operates on a mission of “Radical Transparency,” whereby it partners with ethical factories and doesn’t overcharge you for its high-quality basics.
Gap, Inc. opened its first Gap store on Ocean Avenue in San Francisco in 1969. Forty years later, its women’s athletic wear brand Athleta was born. From colorful leggings to performance workwear and even underwear, this certified B Corp has proven to be an all-around powerhouse that combines style and fabric innovation (in the realms of both performance and sustainability) in each of its pieces.
- Stitch Fix/Instagram
Valued at $2 billion, personal styling service Stitch Fix was founded in 2011 and went public just six years later. By using the technology of proprietary algorithms and the human touch of real stylists, it’s able to quickly and effectively help its members shop for clothes they like. Features like the Style Profile and Style Shuffle game ensure style preferences are continually updated and understood, so members can enjoy a highly personalized shopping experience.
The CEOs of YouTube and 23andMe are investors of this bra startup that was founded by a former Google marketing manager and is taking direct jabs at big brands like Victoria’s Secret. By offering half sizes and 78 sizes in total, ThirdLove wants to make bras as inclusive as possible, without compromising comfort and style. A good place to start is its Fit Finder quiz, or the popular 24/7 Classic T-Shirt Bra, which has more than 32,000 online reviews.
- Modern Citizen/Facebook
Another minimalist fashion brand out of the Bay Area is Modern Citizen. As our editor Sally points out in her Modern Citizen review, minimal doesn’t necessarily mean boring – think smart, versatile, and efficient instead. You’ll find basics for work, travel, and the weekend all in one place, plus accessories and home and beauty products from other small brands. Its styles are the perfect example of a foundation you can dress up or down.
Converts to Marie Kondo’s KonMari method will love SF fashion startup Cuyana. In fact, the brand has a collection of leather cases in collaboration with the organization queen herself. That’s why it should come as no surprise that the phrase “fewer, better” drives Cuyana’s business of selling long-lasting essentials like silk tops, leather bags, and bodywear. You’ll even be able to get rid of clothes you don’t want (while supporting charity) through its Lean Closet program.
Allbirds shoes may be part of the unofficial Silicon Valley uniform, but you don’t have to work in tech to appreciate their extreme comfort. The original, cushion-y Runners, made from wool, are the company’s most recognizable style and feature an ever-rotating selection of color options. All of its silhouettes are stripped-back in design, making them suitable for any casual occasion – including walking the hilly streets of San Francisco.
True & Co.
- True & Co./Instagram
The best bra that Insider Picks reporter Mara Leighton has ever worn comes from an up-and-coming brand called True & Co., one of a small group of lingerie startups out to change the industry for good. Its signature True Body style looks more like a sports bra, but still provides considerable coverage and lift, and it’s seamless and buttery soft. The company’s bras are also surprisingly affordable for their quality, starting at just $34.
How many times will you really wear that dazzling piece of statement jewelry? You know it and we know it: no more than once or twice. Rocksbox, a jewelry discovery and rental membership service, solves this problem by letting you wear handpicked jewelry (from brands like Gorjana and Kendra Scott) for as long as you want, for just $21 a month. This way, you’ll never have to overspend on accessories again.
If a shoe startup can do just as well in New York City as it does in its hometown San Francisco, there’s a good sign it’s doing something right. For Rothy’s, that something is turning sustainable materials like recycled plastic water bottles into a comfortable, stylish, and machine-washable work flat. Following up on this success, it has also launched slip-on sneakers and an adorable kids’ line.
- Le Tote/instagram
If shopping for new clothes is more paralyzing than inspiring, you have an easy, commitment-free option in clothing rental service Le Tote. For a monthly fee (starting at $79), you can wear the curated set of clothing and accessories in your box for as long you want before returning it. In case you do happen to fall in love with a piece, you can buy it for up to 50% off the retail price. When you only have so much time and energy in the day, clothing-in-a-box services like Le Tote help take the pain out of shopping.