The Styles Seen

Discovering the expressive looks of the East Bay.


Published:

Photos by Lance Yamamoto

East Bay streets crackle with style. Chic, playful, tough, sleek — the diversity of looks mirror the city itself. In celebration of East Bay style, we tapped six stylish stars spotted at Art Murmur, First Friday, and around town to share the stories behind their style. Everyone has a style story to tell. What's yours?

His Own Character

Alerter Bungay is a big fan of thrift shopping.

“I look for things that visually captivate me, things with character. They can’t look mass-produced.”

He purchased his burgundy shirt in the Philippines. “It’s very much a representation of me and is very sentimental. It’s attached to seeing my lola [grandmother] in person for the last time. We had a very close bond. Out of all my clothes, this is the most important to me.”

Bungay said that as he matures, his style is more thoughtful, less hodgepodge. “I want to tell a story and be cohesive head to toe. Subtle yet bold. I like to find that balance.”

Dressing nicely, he said, gives him confidence. “As a human, I have my insecurities. I may not be the loudest or most extroverted in the room, but I like to express that I have character. Especially in a city like Oakland with so many characters, fashion is a way for me to be seen.”

On the Mark

Beverly Allen was born in Oakland and has lived all over the world.

“I’m the daughter of working-class immigrants. My mother was a fabulous seamstress. She had a hard time expressing her love in other ways, but she sewed for me.”

Allen loves to knit and makes many of her own clothes. “My color palette shifts. I love black and white together. I also love orange and red. When I was teaching Italian, I always wore red lipstick so they could see each word pronounced as well as having something interesting to look at. Now blues are coming into my wardrobe. As my hair is turning white, I think blue suits me.”

The retired professor loves Chic on College Avenue where owner Rana Mazandarani has become a dear friend and the best stylist Allen has met. “We often get into our heads that we have to wear a certain kind of clothing — required for our work or expressive of our spirit — but we don’t know how to look in the mirror. In our efforts to wear the right thing, we can miss the mark completely. We also miss seeing how our bodies change over the years.”

Always a Stand Out

Candase Chambers finds artistic freedom in fashion.

“I express myself through what I wear. It’s the first thing people see before I open my mouth. My clothes express my mood and my personality. I like color and to stand out.”

Chambers learned early on from her mother that trends don’t matter — wear what looks good on you. “My style doesn’t have to reflect what’s coming down the runway. Knowing I’m a curvy girl and being confident in what works with my body shape, knowing that color looks good on my darker complexion, knowing a cinched waist emphasizes my curves — these are ways my style has evolved over the years.”

Chambers likes to shop locally at female-founded businesses, especially women of color. “I like Taylor Jay for casual, sophisticated comfort. For unique or formal, I shop at McMullen. For accessories, Showing Out in the Laurel district has the best jewelry and handbags. I shop my online boutique — BayBelle — for flirty and night out looks.”

Being from Oakland also influences Chambers’ style. “I can be sexy and sensual but have this pull toward scrappiness, just like Oakland is scrappy. If I’m going out, I’ll wear a jumpsuit instead of a dress or I’ll dress up denim.”

Thrilled by the Hunt

Everett Harper is a man of evolving style.

“High school was ska. College was Euro sweaters and patterns. My 20s, I wore Afrocentric and tribal. My 30s was ‘Italians on a fashionable fall hunting trip.’ In my 40s, it was retro suits from the 1960s. Many of these influences remain, but they’ve been edited and remixed.”

Locally he shops Goorin Hats, Sole Space, and the Alameda Pointe Antiques Faire for vintage. Harper has loved vintage since rummaging through used clothing stores as a kid and street shopping with his mom in New York City.

“One anachronistic touch can change an outfit. Hunting for unique discoveries is the most fun about shopping — I wish more retail stores understood that.”

For Harper, the trend of re-use and recycle is on point. He believes fashion is about “fun, creativity, and sometimes making mistakes to discover what works for your body. It’s definitely not about being pressed or perfect.”

As for Harper’s style icons? Jamaicans living in London during the 1960s and 1970s. He’s drawn to the “fantastic color and pattern palettes, mix of high and low styles, cardigans, pork pie hats, suit jackets, skinny ties and pants — all while looking completely relaxed.”

Boldly Beautiful

Grace Lavery describes her style as feminine but also slightly odd. She favors big, Italian sunglasses à la Sophia Loren and standout accessories in the vein of Zooey Deschanel such as the “lovely crocodile necklace I got from The Vintage Net in Berkeley which is both agro and deeply feminine.”

The associate professor is influenced by the culture and style of the queer femmes in her life — cisgender and trans — who help her think about femme presentation. “It’s some notion of femininity, but there’s also something that more or less cuts across it or violates it. I’m not perfectly imitating something. It’s that imitating it imperfectly that is the spark for me.”

How Lavery dresses and how she presents to the world have been enormous parts of her transition. “When I realized I wasn’t going to merely be a boy who wears nail polish and makeup but someone who comes to work and tells everyone they’re a woman, I needed a decisive signal to let people know about this change. I started wearing a long, auburn wig. Now I get my hair done by Pam Noir in Temescal, and I love her.”

Fashion Finder

Loretta Nguyen is an Oakland-born creative who thought clothing was uncomfortable as a kid.

“It got in the way of being a tomboy. Then, in high school I realized I saw the world through music, art, and fashion. I realized I liked angular clothing. I started cutting my hair really short and not being ashamed of being a tomboy. I was a misfit.”

These days she credits technology and modernism with influencing her style. “I’m interested in design, enclosures, clasps, how we accessorize, how we’ve moved away from different fabrics to synthetics.”

Nguyen’s brother also influenced her. “I was a little kid in the 1980s, and my brother wore mod Brit-pop clothing and eyeliner. As a kid I didn’t like fashion, but it obviously made an impression on me. MTV and the wild styles, the half shirts. All that has been building up in my visual memory.”

Nguyen likes shopping secondhand, then altering finds on her sewing machine to make them her own. The former owner of T-shirt company fiftyseven-thirtythree and Loakal boutique plans to begin creating again. “I’m influenced by men’s fashion and am totally into wearing ties. I hope to create a personal collection of ties made by me.”

Add your comment: