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Retail Realities: AB Fits in San Francisco

For premium denim purveyor AB Fits, there’s something reverential about being located on the oldest street of the city that gave birth to Levi’s—and owner Howard Gee knows it. When the San Francisco native set up shop in 1990, he was determined to bring better denim back to the Bay Area and help every consumer find the perfect fit. “Ours is a no muss, no fuss, approach to retail,” said Jenny Houser, who has worked on a number of projects with AB Fits, including the launch of the store’s e-commerce site. “If something doesn’t look good on a customer, we don’t want them walking out with it.”

It’s a philosophy that’s served the store well from the start and 25 years later, it’s what keeps its register ringing. That, and a top-notch selection that caters to men and women alike and spans sought-after and hard-to-find brands to its own in-house label. Plus: “We offer a lot of in-house services: chain-stitching, repairs, alterations, customizations. If you can’t find a perfect pair of pants that works as is, we can taper it or take it in, which is not something you can do anywhere else in the city,” Houser noted.

A passion for small producers weaves its way through AB Fits, too. “We’re all about quality, not quantity. We don’t really carry mass-produced stuff,” she added. “Some of the brands we used to work with when they were really small ended up moving production overseas when they blew up, and we stopped working with them because they couldn’t be transparent about their production.”

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It’s a stance that’s as important to the customers as it is to Gee, Houser explained. “Denim and raw denim are pretty hot in San Francisco right now and small makers are big. People want to know more about where their clothing comes from and where it’s made and that’s something we also really care about so it’s been really fun to talk to customers about where everything is made,” she said.

Bestselling brands: Raleigh Denim, Blue Blanket, Big John, Rogue Territory and Levi’s Vintage and Made & Crafted collections.

Men’s styles: We’re seeing a lot of slim cuts. Not skinny jeans, but clean, slim, tapered pants. And we still get the guy in here who’s interested in the traditional, OG work pant that Blue Blanket and Red Club do so well.

Women’s styles: Skinny jeans are pretty popular but we’re trying to get away from that and into styles that are a little wider, like slim, straight, high-waist pants. Another thing we’re seeing is a shorter inseam that’s hemmed or cuffed to show some skin with boots or flats.

Best new brand: 3×1, Frame and Chimala are some favorites for women. On the men’s side, Shockoe, Circle of Friends and Matias.

Fall ’15 predictions: Slim cuts for men and women.