Hot Pants 

West Oakland clothing designers go to the side pocket.

When young urbanites Tilden Yamamoto and Barrie Brouse were in college at Humboldt State, everyone wanted to get into their pants. Now that they are part of the current mélange of cool creative types in West Oakland, people still want to get into their pants, but now it'll cost you only about $100 a pop.

Yes, they are clothing designers.

The pair have created a line of pants that have resulted in people stopping them on the street to ask, "God, where did you get those pants?"

"It's been great," Yamamoto says sheepishly. Of course it might help that he is an assistant stylist for Macy's and she is a designer for a children's clothing company in Berkeley, and many of the people they run into are fashionistas. But to make it in the fashion world you need patience, great ideas, drive, and the right connections.

So what's so great about a pair of pants? Anyone who has worn out a favorite pair of jeans knows the answer to that. The slacks in question have a low waist and slim fit, but these ain't no J-Lo's. Think of them more like an old pair of worn-in army pants, but fitted and stylish, created with a couture attitude. These, folks, are the anti-chinos. "We wanted to make clothes that became part of your body, your attitude, and your personality," Brouse says.

The pair of designers were college sweethearts -- he studying forestry, she art history -- when they decided to chuck it all and take a big risk: go into fashion design. Never mind that at the time the pants they were creating were suitable for any garden-variety Rainbow Gathering -- big 'n' baggy corduroy patchwork numbers with hidden pockets for your stash. But the kids up on the North Coast went nuts for them, and Yamamoto and Brouse actually began to make money from their creations. "You could either buy an eighth, or buy our pants," Yamamoto says. "That was how we figured it."

Now, a few years later and after earning degrees from SF's Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, the duo's clothes are cooler, their skills are sharper, and they own a start-up clothing company called Magnolia.

The current line features pants for both sexes -- in both a long and capri style -- plus skirts and a selection of jackets. The blazers are striking, with an almost-too-small style seemingly culled from the menswear of the 1920s, close-fit cuts with two snaps pulling the lapels together smack in the middle and sleeves that barely reach the wrists. A clever slit in the back and deceptively roomy chest create a solid but comfy silhouette.

Everything Magnolia makes now is custom-fit, but of course as the business grows they will eventually move onto a larger scale production. They are hoping that their designs, combined with the fact that they are from Oakland, not New York like every other designer, will draw attention to their work. "For now," Yamamoto says, "we love the fact that we are hand-making every single piece. It feels good to hand over our stuff to buyers."

If you want to check out the Magnolia line or order up a custom-made pair, go to


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