Continuing with our series of people who never go out of style, we’d like to introduce Robert Berry, a clothing designer born in San Francisco, who owns a small, gem-like shop on 2764 Octavia Street at Union. His designs are made of sumptuous material and are flawlessly cut and custom-fitted to each client’s figure.
He was kind enough to let us hang out with him, answered all our questions and allowed us to play dress up in his store.
Check out his website: www.robertberrydesigns.com
In Part One of his story, he tells us about 5 (okay it became 6) must have wardrobe essentials for women and 5 for men.
Robert Berry stands behind a piece of furniture which functions as both a register and a cutting table. Besides his computer there is a ruler, push pins, a giant pair of old black scissors and a variety of coffee table books paying homage to classic Hollywood starlets such as Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn. Robert wears a perfectly fitting faded t-shirt and Levis. This is his uniform.
Robert is a women’s clothing designer who epitomizes San Francisco, being talented, understated, classy and absolutely genuine –qualities he shares with the city when it is at its best. When designing clothes, Robert’s focus is on timelessness, quality of material and precise tailoring rather than season or trend. His shop recognizes neither winter nor spring only what looks good and fits flawlessly. There is nothing adulation-seeking or fussy about him, no feathery fans, dark glasses or adoring entourage in sight. Although he is confident he is also shy and does little to attract attention. His constant companion and mascot for the store is Sammy, a fabulous British Bulldog, who loves to lie in the sun and gracefully accepts the adoring petting and cooing of passerby’s, which never stops.
“What are five wardrobe essentials for women?”
“A little black cocktail dress, a great white blouse, great boots; I mean expensive, nice boots – they should be a go to item to wear under pants and dresses. A special coat for evening because nothing looks worse than someone going out for a special event in their work coat. A very expensive rain coat is still a raincoat. You should invest in a nice evening coat because you’ll have it forever if it is well made enough and classic enough so that it will never go out of style. You should also have something in a bright color, a color that you can wear with black, dark gray or white. A color can be very versatile. Let’s take fuchsia for example – wearing that with all black is very dressy for winter then you can turn around and wear it with all white and it becomes summer or spring, it’s that easy. It’s almost like how a painter paints. I would also say great undergarments. I know that makes it six, but great undergarments really make your clothes fit better. I say get fitted for a good bra and then get it altered so it fits perfectly. You won’t regret it.”
We loved just about everything in the boutique, but one of our absolute favorites was this amazing, floor length opera coat. Robert has over a hundred materials and colors you can choose from to make the lining. You can also choose the length. If we all have to have one great coat for evening, this is it.
“What about five essentials for men?”
“Flat – front dressy slacks, not khakis, in charcoal, black or navy. Get them altered and bring the shoes you’re going to wear with them. Those can be your go to pants to wear with a t-shirt, a button down or a blazer. If they fit well you can wear them and always know that you’re going to look great no matter what else you’re wearing. It’s important to have options. Another essential is a really great black turtleneck. It could be worn under a blazer or with a great pair of jeans. I think it’s one of the most flattering things on a man. I know some guys don’t like the feeling of the turtleneck hitting their jaw, but they can always get it altered or get a mock neck instead. It’s a really good shape and a great unfussy piece of clothing. Plus it’s really slimming. This is kind of boring but I would say you also need a black, navy or camel blazer. You’ve got your black turtleneck and you can wear it with black pants and a navy blazer and it looks really good or you can pump it up with a camel blazer. It’s a very American look, very put together but not fussy at all. You’d also need a great pair of black or brown shoes – the more classic the better. I like Ferragamo, Prada and Dolce and Gabbana. Get something that is going to last both in style and quality. Your shoes are the first thing a woman will notice. It tells a lot about you – your taste level your income level. If you have a beat up pair of shoes the woman will think ‘this guy is not into details. How is he going to take care of me if he can’t even take care of his shoes.’ The last thing you really need is a good pair of dark jeans because you can often get away wearing them instead of slacks. When you get a nice pair, try not to wash them too often to keep their color, alter them, and treat them like slacks.”
“Style is our voice; a way to express ourselves by covering our bodies. It’s how we tell others who we think we are or who we want to be. You get a very strong message by looking at how people are dressed.”
“Can you talk about style versus fashion?”
“Fashion is something you can acquire if you have money. Style is innate. One of the most stylish people ever was Diana Vreland, one of the first editors of Harpers Bazzar and Vogue. She was described as an ugly woman, who when she walked into a room commanded all the attention because of her style. She famously said that bad taste is better than no taste. And that you should always wear something that is a little bit of bad taste with every outfit because it makes it interesting. Good taste is boring, but no taste is worse; if you have bad taste it means that at least you’re trying.”
“Who are some of your favorite designers?”
“I love Jeffery Bean, Yves St Laurent, original Dior, original Chanel, Charles Worth, who was the father of designer clothing in the time of Marie Antoinette. Charles James, an American designer who is the designer’s designer and who made the ‘Four Leaf Clover Dress.’ I have my own version of that dress in my head that I haven’t made yet.”
“What is your favorite fashion era?”
“The Sixties because it was an explosion, one we’re still reeling from. It was when pop culture met society head on. Music influenced fashion and vice versa, things became more international and there were extremes of everything from prim and proper to hippy and everything in between. I’ve never seen that happen since, but fashion was never the same again. That’s when the rule book went out the window.”
(photos by Vadik Smirnov)