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A Tale of two JEFF's in the City

SFO Chair at JEFF's in San Francisco

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Who: JEFF (
What: Women’s fashion accessories, home furnishings, textiles and artwork
Where: 1317 Grant Avenue, North Beach, San Francisco
Why: The tale of two JEFFS starts with Jeff Gard, an award-winning architect and furniture designer, and Jeff Oakes, a former GAP store designer-turned textile and fashion designer. Together, their eye for design and passion for creativity and art is a win for the community and those who appreciate quality and personal client service.

Tell me about the relationship between you two and how you ended up starting a business together?

(Jeff Gard, Architect) Jeff Oakes and I met as part of an alumni group. We both studied Architecture at Washington University in St Louis, though we didn’t know each other back in our school days we had many of the same professors. Wash U has a healthy Bay Area contingent, and we worked in the same architecture firm for a while, in San Francisco, and remained friendly over the years. Both of us were looking for studio space last year and thought we could team up on a creative space.

What are some of your challenges?

(Jeff Gard, Architect) This is our first adventure in shopkeeping and running a gallery space, so we’re still learning, still playing with everything from how we merchandise the store, to what are our hours of operation. We’re not only developing our approach to running and promoting our shop - figuring out what the best tools are for getting the word out - but also creating and refining our wares for our customers. It’s difficult to find that time to be creative and develop news designs.

How has working together benefited your individual brands?

(Jeff Gard, Architect) While our offerings are very different, they both appeal to customers who appreciate something unique, something they haven’t seen before, and something they can actually use in their every day life. We’ve had families come in to look around, and while the wife is trying on clothes, the husband is studying my architecture models, asking questions about my furniture; which has led to some great new leads.

One thing that I’ve really learned from Oakes, is the power of storytelling. He really takes the time to explain to our guests his process, and the design ancestry of his textiles. My piece, the SFO Chair, is actually made from the same wooden tube materials and process that is used to make bass drums. I had never thought to share this information before, but have found out that people find it really fascinating and helps connect them to the object.

Tell me about your clients’ sense of style and how you are able to meet their needs.

(Jeff Gard, Architect) Just like our shop, our clients’ style is very broad – but what they have in common, is a fascination with unique, or one-of-a-kind designs. To support this, as the shop owners and designers, we let our clients know that the work they see in the shop doesn’t have to be an absolute – it can be a jumping off point. We can tweak and refine our designs to truly make something personal to them, we can involve them in the design process, which is a concept our customer really values.

What are some of the trends you among your clients?

(Jeff Gard, Architect) Bold color and prints are really attractive to our clients. Oakes’ fabrics are incredibly high quality and he works with village artisans in India and abroad, to bring stunning patterns with vibrant, rich colors to his designs. Our day-to-day customer loves exploring through his textiles and finding something unexpected and unforgettable. I’m also finding in my furniture business, that bolder colors, palettes outside of neutrals, are very desirable for upholstery.

San Francisco has a bevy of eclectic shops and boutiques, how do you stand out from the crowd?

(Jeff Gard, Architect) We take part in the monthly “First Friday” art walk in North Beach. We pour wine, and really talk and get to know the people who visit the shop on these evenings. From these events we’ve made new friends, gained new clients and had many dinner dates as a result. Each month these events get bigger and bigger, as people come back again and again. People really respond to the warmth of the shop, and the welcoming atmosphere. We also host artist receptions to kick off each new featured show, which always widens our circle. We give people a reason to come back.

How is the artwork selected?

(Jeff Gard, Architect) We’ve been really really lucky. Our first artist was Jason Kelch, one of the most talented artists I’ve ever met. He was referred to us by a friend and we were blown away by his work. We really clicked on a personal level. From there, we’ve reached out to our friends and their network of friends, bringing about shows such as local jewelry designer Brook Battles. For another show, featuring Architect and artist Michael Murphy and his prints of San Francisco buildings with a mid-century twist; we had seen his work at other galleries in San Francisco and Palm Springs, and reached out to him directly. We are also starting to reach out to the micro-north beach neighborhood artists. An upcoming show we’re really excited about, features local North Beach artists in a group show. It’s called “Obstructionist Manifesto” and each of these artist, led by local legend Fannie Renoir, is doing a piece on theme of obstruction in legislature in the style of propaganda posters. I’m participating in this show as well, and look forward to seeing how it is received.

Are any other events hosted at the store?

(Jeff Gard, Architect) In addition to the artist receptions and Art Walk events, we’ve also hosted a seminar on LBatik making, from a London-based fashion designer, Luiven Sanchez, Michael Murphy gave a talk on Modernist Architecture in San Francisco, and Indonesian textile collector Noeleke Glenn Klavert gave a show and tell about antique Indonesian ikat and batiks. But I expect there will be more unique events on our horizon as well – it’s definitely one of the perks of running the shop!

What is Architecture for Humanity?

(Jeff Gard, Architect) Architecture for Humanity is a non-profit that focuses on design innovation and planning to support communities, particularly those in crisis. Their tag line is “Design like you a give a damn.”

Tell me more about your relationship with Architecture for Humanity.
I first came into contact with the organization by participating in a design competition they held for a mobile HIV clinic for Africa. My design centered on a blimp as the key transport system, both as a matter of mobility, but also for the hope and wonder that seeing a blimp in the sky creates in people. My design was a passion pick and honorable mention winner and as a result got to know the founders and organizers, and was incredibly impressed at their mission and work they do. From there, I’ve hosted events to support their organization, whenever I can.

What’s next for JEFF?

(Jeff Gard, Architect) In the short term we are also planning a presentation of found object creatures by San Francisco outsider artist John Amato, which will also serve as a fundraiser for the local SPCA . We both immediately made the connection to rescued and adopted pets and Johns hand-made and hand-painted creatures made from things he finds on his daily city and beach walks. More long term we hope to team up on more projects that will blend Jeff Oakes textile design and my architectural interiors and furniture design for collaborative wares and interiors.

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