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New People World in Japantown, San Francisco! Torso Vintages, Haight Ashbury, Ayammy.

off shoulder long floral dress

San Francisco has some of the best vintage, avantgarde and Japanese streetwear boutiques in the USA. Are you keen on Lolita dresses? 1940s veiled hats? Cyber tribal bodysuits?

Then this San Fran shopping guide is for you — including photos from Japantown, and the Jpop department store New People World.

PS: I’m currently having a lovely time in paradise, aka Cebu in the Philippines. You can see outfit previews and more on my Instagram.

alice's pig, urban vintage dresses

That day, I wore an off-shoulder dress, sent to me by Alice’s Pig — a London based label inspired by urban vintage. The morning light shows off the silhouette and 90s-style dark floral print.

vintage fur coat shop

It was an appropriate outfit for visiting Torso Vintages, purveyors of the finest and most flamboyant fashions from past decades. (Address: 290 Sutter Street, in the SF Financial District)

torso vintages san francisco

Trevor showed Yukiro and me around Torso’s lower floor racks. Everything here is a decadent work of art, made with the finest materials and lovingly displayed. Price tags are on the high side, but that’s to be expected of dressing gowns that seem to come from the court of St Petersburg.

white feather bird mask

I was speechless at the curiosities everywhere. On the staircase, I came across this white bird mask. In the back room, we got to peek at the most treasured designs, including a futuristic hat worn by Michael Jackson.

vintage clothing san francisco

Torso is an institution in San Francisco — they’re simply the best at finding designs with old-time magic. Co-owner John (far left) has dressed quite a few celebrities in this store.

white fur shawl scarf

I couldn’t resist getting dolled up too. I fancied myself as an old heiress, draping myself in shawls and hats before a tea party.

crazy vintage hats

Imaginative pieces from the days of Art Deco, brought back to life on the mannequins.

designer torso vintage shop

The clothes aren’t just for human peacocks. John can help you find something to match any personality or occasion. At Torso, you invest in something special that you will keep and re-wear for years, if not decades.

vintage designer boutiques

The pins, the colors, the scarves… this is a wearable museum. Torso is one of the most outstanding vintage stores I’ve seen in all of America — so get over here!

haight ashbury vintage sign

Another must-visit district is Haight Ashbury. Haight is pronounced “hate” but this street is all about peace, love… and funka-delic clothing.

hippie buddhist shops san francisco

Haight-Ashbury was the hippie hangout in the 1960s, and it still has that tie-dye trippy vibe. There were quite a few Tibetan boutiques with Buddhist altars. (It reminded me of the garden at the San Francisco Zen Center,) where we stayed.

ceiba sf tribal burning man fashion

Most of the stores on Haight Street are too hippie-dippie for my taste, but I adored Ceiba SF. The window had this tribal-fusion mannequin in white, and a tribute to the late HR Giger.

ceiba san francisco futuristic clothes

Inside, Ceiba is a wonderland of dark futuristic fashion, by labels like Gelareh and Mother of London. Leather, harnesses, alien forms, draped dystopic designs. Be still, my beating heart.

weird avantgarde clothing haight ashbury

I’d recommend spending half a day shopping along Haight Street, starting at Whole Foods and Golden Gate park, and making your way down towards Bound Together, the anarchist collective bookstore. That’s San Fran in a nutshell! (Later, I’ll take you inside the Oddities SF store Loved to Death — it deserves its own post.)

japantown peace plaza tower

The city has a large Japanese population, making it a center for Jpop culture and events, such as J-summit. Most of the action happens in — obviously — Japantown. Start at the Peace Plaza, crowed by this Peace Pagoda. There’s a Daiso next to it (the dollar store filled with kawaii goods).

japanese mall san francisco

The most popular shopping destination is New People World, an entertainment complex dedicated to Tokyo street fashion and culture. (Address: 1746 Post Street). You can find both modern and traditional garments here.

aymmy japanese clothing, new people world

There are only a few boutiques in total, so don’t get your expectations up too high — this isn’t like shopping at Marui Shinjuku. Still, stores like MaruQ have a sweet selection of cute, gyaru and Lolita clothing.

Is that a red-haired Archie comics character in the back?

Aymmy in the batty girls

Not quite. This is Aymmy in the batty girls, a new brand starring model Ayumi Seto. It imagines her as a Jpop girl working in a 1950s Americana diner.

maruq shop new people world

The shop has a mix of cute, colorful fashions. Some are Tokyo brands, some are local.

rilakkuma bear toys

There are a lot of cute characters lying about, such as Rilakkuma the bear.

gothic lolita japan town

Perhaps I’m spoiled from shopping in Asia all the time… Nothing really caught my eye, especially upstairs. The prices were quite steep compared to Hong Kong and Japan, and I was able to browse through the entire building in 30 minutes.

kawaii dresses san francisco

However, if you live in North America, I know it can be hard to get your hands on kawaii clothing and toys unless you order online.

tralala tokyo gyaru

For this reason, I’m glad there is a department store like New People World, which makes Japanese items more readily available.

japantown tea cafe

Don’t forget to stop by the little cafe at the front for tea. The sign says “Nothing replaces a mother’s love except perhaps a fine cup of tea.”

rainbow unicorn mural

Finally, let’s mosey over to the Mission, around 16th and Valencia St. This is an artsy yet still grungy district, which was a punk haven in the 1970s.

Next to a secondhand store, we saw these rainbows and kissing unicorn-ladies.

mission valencia alley street art

This is Clarion Alley, an alleyway covered in murals (between Mission and Valencia / 17th and 18th Streets). The works are mostly trippy, and constantly changing. We passed by an artist who was painting dogs on a door.

hipster san francisco shop

Walk along Valencia and you’ll see lots of hipster interior design and clothing boutiques, as well as secondhand clothing at low prices.

paxton gate san francisco

I was enthralled by Paxton Gate, two shops filled with curiosities for both kids and adults. (Address: 766 and 824 Valencia St, SF).

taxidermy stuffed cat

Here, “buying a stuffed cat” has a whole different meaning…

stuffed piranhas

Taxidermy piranhas, anyone? A nice house-warming gift for the Addams Family, perhaps.

taxidermy mice steampunk clothes

Steampunk white mice, stuffed and standing! Now I’ve seen everything.

skulls in glass case

Skulls and bones and spooky objects — Paxton Gate rocks.

826 valencia pirate store

And don’t miss the Pirate Supply Store at 826 Valencia! It’s a treasure chest of pirate-y slogans and must-haves like… a jar of gangrene. The shop is actually the “business” front for the writing non-profit started by Dave Eggers.

haight ashbury goth

I leave you with a snap of my Alice’s Pig skirt and crop top. For more of this outfit, check out my San Francisco travel posts. They include guides to alternative Goth nightlife, restaurants, and other sights.

Have you shopped in San Francisco? What other boutiques would you recommend, in Japan-Town or elsewhere?

SHARE & COMMENT

34 Comments

  1. Posted September 29, 2014 at 12:08 am | Permalink

    Those headdresses though :O

  2. Posted September 29, 2014 at 12:08 am | Permalink

    New people world OMG

  3. Posted September 29, 2014 at 12:08 am | Permalink

    Cute cute. The vintage store looks like my type of heaven.

    • Posted October 1, 2014 at 4:59 am | Permalink

      it was one of my favorites ever!

  4. Posted September 29, 2014 at 12:09 am | Permalink

    Those are my favorite districts. Did you go to the dollar store near the Japan town tower?

  5. Posted September 29, 2014 at 12:10 am | Permalink

    <3

  6. Posted September 29, 2014 at 12:10 am | Permalink

    Xoxo

  7. Posted September 29, 2014 at 12:24 am | Permalink

    You seem pretty cool ;-)

  8. Posted September 29, 2014 at 12:39 am | Permalink

    Yeah, found J-town a bit of a yawn. But loved all the Taxidermy/Oddities shops like Loved to Death, and like you, the only store in Haight district I liked was the steampunk/cyber/goth shop. I have to say I’ve become OBSESSED with the post-apocalyptic fashion of labels such as Demobaza, SkinGraft, Mother of London and Gelareh, which Ceiba SF stocks.(I even started a pinterest board http://www.pinterest.com/trashtastika/dystopianpost-apocalyptic-fashion/)

    We LOVED the cebicheria La Mar – best cerviche evar!! So thanks for that recommendation :)

    • Posted October 1, 2014 at 5:00 am | Permalink

      Ah I’m so glad you loved La Mar!! and I had a feeling you would be into Ceiba. There’s a lot of interesting dark fashion coming out of LA / San Fran right now. The Loved to Death post is coming up, it deserved its own separate one! xo

  9. Posted September 29, 2014 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    The mice remind me of Dinner for Schmucks, pretty sure Steve Carrel made those lol

  10. Posted September 29, 2014 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    That was such a fun day romping around – loved the street art and taxidermy mice!

  11. Posted September 29, 2014 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    Ugh, I’ve always wanted to go here!

  12. Posted September 29, 2014 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    I wish I could hang out with you and your friends.

    • Posted October 1, 2014 at 5:01 am | Permalink

      next time! we have meetups

  13. Posted September 29, 2014 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    Headdresses are to die for.

  14. Posted October 1, 2014 at 4:54 am | Permalink

    I love san fransciso too.

    • Posted October 1, 2014 at 5:01 am | Permalink

      left my heart there…

  15. Posted October 1, 2014 at 4:55 am | Permalink

    Those are fabulous stores!

  16. Posted October 2, 2014 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    They also stock this brand in Oslo, Norway. I tried on the Rila pancake dress

  17. Posted October 2, 2014 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    I’m so excited you posted this! I have a trip to SanFran in December and I’ve been on the hunt for some ideas on stuff to hit up.

  18. Posted October 2, 2014 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    Do you have a shopping guide for nyc or Vegas?

    • Posted October 8, 2014 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

      Yes, check it out on Search!

  19. Posted October 2, 2014 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

    Looks like so much fuuun~ i wish my life was like that lol ^^

  20. Posted October 3, 2014 at 12:06 am | Permalink

    loves it to bits

  21. Posted October 3, 2014 at 12:06 am | Permalink

    japantown!!!

  22. Posted October 3, 2014 at 12:07 am | Permalink

    SO KAWAII
    this helps so much when I go to SF next year!

  23. Posted October 5, 2014 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    I love San Franciso! I’ve been 4 times now. xoxoxosx

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