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Gilt's Former Style Director and SF Transplant Talks Life in the Bay

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Photos by Aubrie Pick

It's something that might traumatize anyone deeply embedded in the New York fashion industry: a move to San Francisco, that place rumored to be "all shorts and hiking boots and Tevas." And while Tammy Eckenswiller, the former style director at Gilt, does find SF style to be more understated than in New York, she's also found that the shopping does not disappoint. Lucky her, her new pad is a stone's throw from Jeremy's, plus she has as a keen eye for perusing our city's excellent vintage and consignment offerings. Read on for more about Tammy's work, her style, and how she's secretly 60-years-old. And you really don't want to miss her basset hound Buttercup.

How did you get into styling?
"I went to business school and I started an e-commerce business for dead stock vintage. I bought 50,000 pounds of dead stock vintage from this store in my hometown and I used my student loan to buy it and start the company. I met so many people in the fashion industry because of it. I met a lot of stylists, I met costume designers from movies, editors and basically I started assisting because of that.

But I realized I wanted to be an editor before I wanted to be a stylist. I thought if you really want to learn the business it would be good to be an editor first. So I assisted—I basically volunteered almost like an intern—for this editor and he hired me as his assistant editor at a magazine in Canada called Glow. And then a couple years later I took a job as the fashion editor at a magazine called Fashion, which is the biggest fashion magazine in Canada. it had like a 1.2 million circulation, it was insane. It's like Vogue in Canada. The thing in Canada is there are only a few magazines and everybody reads them. I also had a street style column for the Toronto Star for about six years. So I started more as an editor than a stylist, frankly.

I got to go to the shows around the world and I was shooting in New York all the time and I fell in love with New York. I wanted to move to New York and I wanted to do what was next in the industry. I was like, "What's the next big thing?" I'd heard about Gilt and after doing some research I knew that they wouldn't hire me as an international (employee). So I got my visa through an agency to be a freelance stylist and I just doggedly pursued them. I started assisting as a freelancer for them but I helped them basically build the whole team out. So they hired me full time, they sponsored my visa, and then they promoted me to style director."

What did that job entail?
"We had a whole team of stylists, we went from doing a few shoots a day to doing like 20 shoots a day. We were shooting everything from men's, women's, home—the stuff that was for sale every day and all the editorials that went along with it, as well as promotional campaigns. We did a lot of fun things. I really loved editorial because it's like you're getting paid to learn and there's nothing quite like that. Then being a freelance stylist was less of that so I really wanted to go further and be involved in learning more. Now I'm lucky because I get to consult and help a lot of startups use all the knowledge that I got working for Gilt, which was pretty significant. We were forging new ground. Nobody had that kind of output with that kind of quality. Still I don't think anybody does.

How long did you work there?
"Three and a half years."

When did you move to San Francisco?
"I was going back and forth as of February, and we just got this place recently."

How do you describe your style?
"I have a joke with my friend that I'm secretly 60-years-old. I have always, since I was very young, dressed older. I like glamour and I like sophistication and I like polish and I like it with a little bit of subversion, so it's a little naughty."

Any fashion icons who you admire? Your descriptions brings to mind Carine Roitfeld.
"I love Carine Roitfeld, but I would say I'm more influenced by movies. Catherine Deneuve in Belle du Jour is obviously amazing—it was a time when people were a little bit more dressed up. I love Francoise Hardy. Anything French New Wave has been a big influence on me. I would say movies like Blue Velvet, those characters, I've always thought: "I want to dress like that." Also Anna Karina in Band of Outsiders."

Coming from New York, what do you think of the style in San Francisco?
"It's definitely much more low key and casual. I like the style but I feel like a bit of a misfit for sure. I went to a party with my husband a couple of weeks ago and I wore a bright red trouser with a bright red blouse and I definitely felt like I was from another planet."

Any favorite shopping spots so far in San Francisco?
"Carrots, I love Jeremy's, I love Neiman's—who doesn't love Neiman's? Also Mill. Torso has got to be my favorite. The vintage here is ridiculous. Cris on Russian Hill is great."

Who are some of your clients?
"Google, Everlane, Piperlime, Levi's, The Cools (back in New York). I'm doing a lot more lifestyle here. I love combining editorial and content and commerce. That's my real passion at the end of the day.

Time for the lightning round!
Beach or Mountains?
"Mountains"

8am or 8pm?
"8am"

Kanye or Jay Z
"JayZ"

Beatles or Rolling Stones?
"Beatles"

Neighborhood lunch spot?
"Darwin"
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