Andres Intimates: a San Francisco Lingerie Legacy
This year I had the opportunity to visit the design and production studio of Andrés Intimates, a brand that has been creating lingerie locally here in San Francisco since 1978. This is a brand with a rich history, and it's heartening to see another space where truly local manufacturing is still succeeding. While touring the studio, I met the design team, flipped through color story and fabric books, and got a close look at the actual garments: slips, chemises, and robes from their archive as well as current production runs.
The core value of Andrés Intimates is tradition and it was evident throughout the studio. I love that their lookbook shoot is an homage to local manufacturing, shot in their actual studio space. Though the concept of shooting lingerie or gowns in an industrial setting is a bit trite, the fact that the location is actually the home of the brand really makes this shoot work for me. The juxtaposition isn't forced. Andrés Intimates is a brand that is very confident in what it is. As a well-established brand, they aren't edgy or experimental – they're sticking with styles and processes that are tried and true. While many of their garments are basic, the trick is that they are well-done and ethically made.
Sadly, the eponymous Andrés who launched the brand has passed on, but their current lead designer Alex Michael Snyder worked closely with him during his final years with the company. Alex pulls from their extensive archive of patterns for each collection. Using these classic designs, they develop the color story, sometimes pulling from their archive of original prints as well, or dyeing lace to match. While they're committed to using American-made lace, I have to admit that they pale in comparison to the luxe French laces many of my colleagues favor.
The San Francisco Bay Area does have a few factories where small and mass production takes place. Most of these are in more industrialized areas, like South San Francisco – which is, in fact, a separate city from SF proper. Andrés Intimates does on-site production for their own line, which I strongly believe is the best way to consistently ensure the highest quality product.
I discussed this a little bit in What Is the Difference between a Handmade and Mass-Produced Corset? Like Dark Garden, where I work part time, the design, management, and production team are all working in the same space. There's a higher level of oversight and the most experienced workers have been there literally decades --- one of the cutters at Andrés has been there for thirty years. The stitchers have been there for twenty years or more, making them experts on both the constituent construction techniques and each finished garment.
When a team is this good, it means that not only are fewer mistakes made, but any that slip through are more likely to be caught by another employee before the garment has completed its rounds through production to QC (quality control). As well as a highly skilled production team, the studio also houses the pattern archive, fabric and trims library, a triple-step zigzag machine, and other specialty equipment. As a patternmaker, I confess I was particularly wooed by the huge rack of neatly hung production patterns.
Of course, the advantages to on-site production don't stop at QC. Local production is good for the economy. Legacy studios like this provide job security for the craftspeople they hire, who may otherwise be hard pressed to find good work – especially in tech-struck, gentrified San Francisco. Safety and overtime laws and so forth protect American workers from the dark side of mass-production, seen with every factory collapse or child labor scandal in large-scale overseas factories.
The design style of Andrés Intimates is "transgenerational" --- they focus on simple silhouettes with a high level of care for fit and construction quality. Most of their garments are cut from sumptuous silk charmeuse with comfortable wearing ease, stitched with French seams and bias-bound necklines. Though this is an intimates/loungewear line, there's also a tacit understanding that some of what they produce will be worn as daywear, mixed with ready-to-wear garments.
The Circle Robe they gifted me has become a staple to top off my outfits. (Perhaps you remember seeing it in my Les Lunes bodysuits review, styled with a Made by Niki "String" skirt.) It's perfect retro-modern-boho-chic, and probably the most versatile piece of loungewear I own. Though occasionally the billowing sleeves are a bit cumbersome, it's incredibly fun to waft around in at home or at work. I fell in love with the coral color, which I think pairs beautifully with anything from black and grey to rich raspberry hues or even a striking teal, as shown above. It's worth noting that this piece appears to be a synthetic (not silk) chiffon and its seams are straight stitched and overlocked, not French. The synthetic fiber content is probably a blessing, though, considering the odd makeup smears I manage to have accumulated on one sleeve. The silk collar and cuffs are sewn on very tidily. Aside from the aforementioned smudges, it hasn't shown any signs of wear despite all its use and travel. The one time I snagged it, it was easy to tug the threads back into place.
What do you think of Andrés Intimates? Are you more likely to buy lingerie and loungwear that is domestically or locally produced?