(Photo courtesy of Owen Geronimo)
San Francisco — If you frequently haunt fashion events in San Francisco, whether it’s a fashion show or industry mixer; you’ve probably attended a San Francisco Fashion and Merchant Alliance (a.k.a. SFFAMA) event or met the organization’s founder, Owen Geronimo. SFFAMA, a non-profit organization that supports a thriving fashion industry in the Bay Area, offers a cornucopia of social-networking events from San Francisco Fashion Week to Fashion Feud.
Geronimo, who helms SFFAMA, prefers to take a behind-the-scenes role, but it is hard to miss him, as he typically can be seen hurriedly scurrying about the hosting venue making sure everything and everybody is on schedule and in place. And, if you are able to catch him in passing, one thing for sure, he is primed and ready to discuss SF fashion and how you can be a part of the frenzy. Geronimo doesn’t mince words and speaks frankly; since he is on a mission to take Frisco fashion to the next level, these might be warranted attributes.
I recently caught up with Geronimo for a Q&A on San Francisco fashion. Here’s what he had to say:
The Chic Spy: What is your background in fashion and the arts?
Owen Geronimo: I have been an art curator, on and off, since the mid nineties. I did dabble in fashion as a designer around the same time. My father was a tailor and my mother is a seamstress. My brother owns an upholstering and interior decorating business and the youngest is a fashion photographer. I really did not plan to be in the fashion industry, but the opportunity presented itself to me. It took about two years of soul searching after the mortgage crisis. After the financial collapse, I did not know what I was going to do. I was able to refocus my energy and reinvent myself doing what I love which is art and fashion.
TCS: When did you launch SFFAMA?
OG: September of 2009. We incorporated the same year. I’m very thankful for board of advisor Patrick Consorti. He took a chance. I owe him a lot.
TCS: What inspired you to launch the organization?
OG: The inspiration to launch SFFAMA is to bring change by providing knowledge about the business of fashion. To also negate the ‘starving artist’ mentality and have fashion distance itself from the local club scene. Every SFFAMA fashion event is very fashion focused with specific purposes. I want to introduce new ideas with the emphasis on technology and innovative projects providing relevant workshops to the community. Fashion is about evolution, in with the new and out with the old; that is why there is such a seasonality to fashion. Ultimately, fashion is about the cycle of changes. A business cannot grow without any changes.
[slideshow exclude=”1, 2″]The Economics of Art at the Barber Lounge. (Photo credits: sfpaparazzi.net. Photo by Josh mehler, Translucent Studos)
TCS: What do you believe sets SFFAMA apart from other similar fashion organizations and associations?
OG: SFFAMA is a visionary organization, we pride ourselves on doing things that have never been implemented before. Our knowledge about technology, social commerce and, most importantly, our ability to adapt in any economic climate separates us from most stagnant organizations. SFFAMA is aligned with individuals with the same missions and goals to become change agents and spread the word of our entrepreneurial spirit. It is all about integrity. I want to be known not because of our popularity, but because of what we do.
TCS: You also started a blogger network. How does that work and what was the motivation behind it?
OG: Blogging is now accepted by the masses as a reliable media source. San Francisco is known as a hub of fashion bloggers. Fashion Bloggers Connect is a platform where bloggers are invited to interact with local fashion entrepreneurs. They are given the opportunity to market themselves in social events and workshops. It is a very positive experience because they are able to write about their experiences and convert them into articles for their blogs. It is also very synergistic because they are able to cover and write about the local fashion merchants. It’s good exposure for both parties. Bloggers are becoming the new darlings in the industry. They are a very powerful voice in media.
TCS: What do you see missing from the fashion scene in San Francisco?
OG: Until recently, San Francisco has been missing its own fashion identity. However, this identity is now being molded by the local fashionistas who excel at self expression and individualism. Also, with the emergence of start-ups such as Kaboodle, Moxie and Polyvore, San Francisco has become the ‘Indie Fashion’ capital. It is very exciting. A garment district would also serve good purpose in the local fashion industry.
TCS: How many members does SFFAMA have currently and how many people work on the SFFAMA team?
OG: Over 800 members in our social network at Ning. Over 1300 on Facebook. We have three executive board members. We have six on our advisory board. The production team is structured as an internship program and we are grateful for having the SFSU Fashion Network Association during the past six months. We also have two crews for SF Fashion TV. We are coming up with a fashion week committee so we are growing at a steady pace.
TCS: You have created a great network for merchants as well as bloggers, what advice do you have for fashion and blogging entrepreneurs just entering their industries?
OG: Network with an open mind but be sure to connect with the right people. In order to do so, you must have a clear goal. Also, gauge yourself, by setting a deadline when you want to accomplish a specific goal. Invest money in your business, learn accounting and bookkeeping. Sadly, it is a challenge to make money on personal blogging but the possibilities are there.
TCS: Where do you see SFFAMA in five years and do you have any plans to start similar organizations in other states or countries, for example LAFAMA (Los Angeles Fashion and Merchants Alliance)?
OG: In 5 years, I want to offer scholarships to aspiring fashion designers and expand on our mentorship programs. Also, to serve as a guide for university curriculums. A very established “San Francisco Fashion Week”. SFFAMA owns the trademark. It’s a huge undertaking. We will have a committee moving forward. Yes, we now have both South Bay and East Bay networks. I can only speak for SFFAMA.