It's been fascinating to watch the transformation in San Francisco during the past six Macworlds. I attended the 2001 Macworld came just as the dotcom bubble was on the verge of bursting. It was a dizzying explosion of limos, conference schwag, and lavish, wild parties -- but not much to celebrate.
The 2002 conference took place in a city that looked almost post-apocalyptic -- empty storefronts, abandoned renovation projects, and an enormous population of street people. Rumors were that the hotel limos were now being driven by former dotcom art directors.
Gradually, over the past few years, the area around the Moscone Conference Center (a few blocks from Union Square) has come back up. The better-planned projects have been completed, and mid-range stores (including the Apple Store) have moved into the shopping areas along Market.
In its current incarnation, this area of San Francisco is a great place to look at fashion, particularly because the weather is mild and people don't go around bundled up against the cold or rain. Here, boots and coats are a fashion statement, not a necessity.
The city's lively, off-beat take on design and fashion is strongly fueled by retro concepts. 1950s-era jazz is heard on the street; there's still a tinge of Haight-Ashberry rusticity and pop-art color; and from Union Square you get a strong dose of elegant 1960s Italian fashion (classic tailored black wools and gold jewelry). Top it all off with the leather-and-chains look that remains perennially the mode in the Castro District.
Yesterday I saw people wearing clothing I couldn't imagine seeing in Seattle -- beautiful Italian leather hobo bags; wildly elaborate post-hippie tops and skirts from Anthropologie; designer jeans and spike-heeled black boots everywhere. You can buy the look for big bucks at Nordstrom or Kenneth Cole, or cheaply at Forever 21. But wherever you shop, the words "plain" "basic" and "practical" probably don't get spoken very often! And certainly not "boring."