Inside a bright studio boutique in the Mission, Danette Scheib leans across her design table and a spool of plaid fabric. Tugging at loose threads, she straightens for a moment and begins to wonder aloud if the material might be stretchier than she remembered. Perhaps, too stretchy for a high-waisted pant.
The design table sits at the back of Lemon Twist, a lively little shop with a bright pink door and mirrored metallic mannequins. Mellow reggae beats fill the air, and the clothing racks are stocked with luxe textiles in simple, easy-to-wear shapes.
Scheib, a lecturer of four years in the apparel design and merchandising department at SF State, said she never expected she would establish a women’s fashion label.
“I definitely struggled with figuring (my career) out,” Scheib said. “I knew it had something to do with clothing, but I never thought I would be the designer.”
In November 2015, Scheib celebrated the grand opening of her shop. She founded Lemon Twist in 1999, but rising rent prices forced the designer to close her first store and left her bouncing between various pop-up locations and designing from home after class. The new permanent space allows her to reconnect with customers and work on her collection outside the confines of her living room.
While she always had an interest in fashion, Scheib said she didn’t realize her calling until she enrolled in a pattern-making course, which inspired her to complete a degree in apparel and textiles at the University of Iowa.
“I still worked for designers after that,” she said. “But finally, I don’t know why, I just felt like I could break off.”
Scheib said she enjoys the decision-making process and seeing her patterns come to life. A single piece may take months to create as she actualizes the details. Sometimes, that means finding a new fabric because the spool of plaid that was ordered has a little more stretch than expected.
With more than 15 years as an independent designer, the mother-of-two said she has learned the art of balance.
“There’s always different hats,” Scheib said. “You just really need to find what you’re good at, and focus on that.”
Scheib’s off-campus success lends itself to lectures and lab hours that are practical and constructive for students in her flat pattern class, according to Connie Ulasewicz, an SF State professor and sustainable design expert.
“Danette is truly a grounded instructor for our apparel design students, as she has a business and can offer real commentary,” Ulasewicz said. “Often, our students are offered the opportunity to assist and complete their field experience requirements at Lemon Twist.”
The hands-on experience is invaluable for graduating ADM students like Christine Ng, a former Lemon Twist intern, who said she feels inspired by Scheib’s professionalism, poise and overall zest for life.
“She’s on top of her work, and she’s there for you,” Ng said. “I was completely struggling, honestly, just thinking about finding an internship in this crazy, competitive industry. It’s overwhelming. But she came to me, and (asked if) I want to help and intern with her.”
Scheib said the designs are made to be timeless, describing her clientele as creative and aesthetically conscious – women who aren’t compelled to fit into every fad.
“I didn’t set out to do this, but I wear things, and customers wear things of mine that are 15 years old,” Scheib said. “They’re still modern. And we construct them well. It’s nice to know that things last.”
Scheib said she isn’t looking to runways or social media for artistic influence. Rather, she is taking the time to notice everyday quirks like the old man in polyester plaid pants who strolls past the store.
Each piece is designed in-house and constructed in the Bay Area, according to Scheib. While it’s commonplace in the industry to outsource labor overseas, Scheib said that, for her, the idea of locally-made apparel was never a question.
“Her philosophy of creating community through locally designed and sewn and worn garments is one that our (SF State) program strongly supports,” Ulasewicz said.
Also local is the boutique’s artwork. A rainbow of snappy, graphic quotes adorns the walls with phrases like, “DO YOU MIND IF I ALWAYS LOVE YOU” and “NOT EVERYBODY IS SUPER CHILL.” These cheeky prints are the work of Scheib’s husband Eric, an artist and graphic designer.
Scheib said there is still a lot to unveil at Lemon Twist. She looks forward to offering guest designer showcases, a rotating art gallery and a fashion design summer camp for children, a program she offered prior to opening the store. But after three months, she said the storefront on 25th Street already feels like home.
“I could stay here and make my little dresses ’til I’m 90,” Scheib said. “That would be perfect.”