Discount shopping through this city's warehouse district has become a most popular pursuit for budget-minded San Franciscans. Styles offered are from traditional business and dressy attire to wildly avant-garde fashion.
Many of the discount shops belong to San Francisco clothing designers and manufacturers who sell first-quality overruns and remaindered stock. Others stock various labels, including famous and lesser French and Italian designers.
Similar garments sold in retail shops in San Francisco and other cities sell for at least twice the prices.
The warehouse district, nicknamed SoMa (for south of Market), is an area of factory buildings bordered by Market, 1st, Townsend and 12th streets.
The district is unglamorous and off the beaten tourist path. The most interesting discount outlets are in several clusters that are not within comfortable walking distance of each other. But the savings make the inconvenience worthwhile.
Heaviest traffic is on Saturday, less on weekdays.
To save time, map out an itinerary and phone ahead to check the hours of shops.
Eileen West's outlet (61 Bluxome St.) sells this designer's entire range of super-feminine styles. Most stock is from previous seasons. Best buys include long velvet skirts ($36) in black, forest green or maroon; little silk tank tops with pearl buttons ($30); satin cocktail dresses ($50), and cotton nighties with floral prints ($32).
Casual attire includes denim dresses with gingham underskirts ($20), cotton plaid dresses ($34) and white linen sailor dresses with navy trim ($55).
City Lites (145 Bluxome St.) offers cotton exercise clothes. Slacks, tops and dropped-waist skirts in bright mix-and-match colors sell for $10 per item. Leotards in wild prints and bright solid colors cost $6 each.
Carol Miller (173 Bluxome St.) sells beautiful washable silk dresses and ensembles made on the premises. The styles, arranged by model and color on help-yourself racks, include silk dusters ($73), short-sleeved sheaths that button down the front and tie at the waist ($68), duster jackets ($46), blouses ($34), full skirts ($45), straight skirts ($38) and other comfortable and easy-to-care-for garments.
Colors are from basic black and navy to dusty rose and tarnished gold. In the factory's modest try-on area you can assemble an entire wardrobe for a reasonable price.
CP Shades Outlet Store (corner of Bluxome and 6th streets) is a huge warehouse filled with overruns and remaindered stock with the San Francisco-based CP Shades label. The CP Shades style is casual and chic.
Loose-fitting trousers, jackets, shirts and miniskirts, shorts, tank tops and other fashion elements are designed to fit together in individualized ensembles, frequently with a layered, fashionably disheveled look. The clothes are made of various weights of 100% cotton, knitted and woven fabrics, in interesting textures that pick up dyes in differing intensities.
Even though garments are colored in huge dye lots so that everything more or less matches, there are still subtle changes of tone that can make one-color outfitting creative. Or different colors can be used together.
Each season produces a new crop of colors, and many of those at the discount outlet are from seasons past. But CP Shades garments are meant to last from season to season, meant to look lived in. They gain character with age.
And, with garments priced at $15 to $25 each (usually less than half the retail price), you can't go wrong. Surprise Saturday storewide sales reduce prices even further, sometimes to as little as $10 per item.
Jeanne Marc Factory Outlet (550 3rd St.) is the designer's own store, offering sportswear and dresses in sizes 4 to 14. Best are the dresses that incorporate several contrasting patterns of colorful floral, geometric and polka-dot print fabrics into a flowing, sophisticated peasant look, with cinched waists and ruffled shoulders and cuffs.
They sell here for $55-$85; in retail stores they cost double that. Cotton dresses with tiers of contrasting fabrics cost $80 and may be accented with pretty vests with multiple rows of buttons.
Kathy's Outlets/Deja Vu (400 Brannan St., second floor) offers trendy designer label clothes at discount prices. Stock changes frequently, but you're likely to find Jackie Bernard for Elektra two-piece ensembles ($89) as well as French designer cotton blouses ($20), Carol Little silk tops ($20) and Kenar silky tops in day-glo colors ($50). The occasional Albert Nippon silk jacket slips onto the racks for about $50.
New West (425 Brannan St., second floor) shows trendy clothes on racks in two showrooms and a long hallway. Most of the merchandise is current, and the outlet has a sense of the most contemporary styling.
Labels include Stefano Studio, with short-waisted silk jackets ($37) and skirts ($25) in gray and coral, and Glenn Williams' mix-and-match beige and navy jackets ($42), vests ($22), skinny dresses ($42) and rayon and linen jackets ($52).
More Reasonable Prices