Joy Bianchi of Helpers House of Couture (Portrait: ©Drew Altizer)
San Francisco native Joy Bianchi is easily one of the city’s best dressed citizens (and its most recognizable, thanks to her trademark oversized black glasses). The spirited woman about town has dedicated the past 62 years to supporting the Bay Area’s developmentally disabled through fashion. Her two nonprofit boutiques carry immaculate vintage couture donated by socialites and celebrities the world over.
What is your go-to destination for shopping?
I like Ghirardelli Square. It’s in the process now of becoming something great again as it was in 1966 when it opened. Within two years we’re going to see something extraordinary.
What are your favorite stores in the square?
Ours, of course, Helpers Bazaar. I’d also recommend ElizabethW—just going into the store you soak up the wonderful perfumes and want to buy everything. I love their lotions. And there’s Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory and Yap, a very chic and charming store for dogs that’s just a must. I love bringing visitors who are dog people there. And Wattle Creek Winery—people love that.
What is your favorite neighborhood?
Union Square is like my private club. I’ve loved it since I was a little girl. I like all the stores there: Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Cartier, Tiffany’s, Bulgari—love Bulgari. You find customer service at the highest level.
Do you admire any local designers?
I do love one little jewelry store on Maiden Lane, called Ancona. Frank Ancona is a lovely man, really quite extraordinary. He’s totally dedicated to his art and to his customers. For jewelry repair, I go to Martin Del Bonta upstairs on Post Street.
What restaurants do you frequent?
How do you spend your evenings?
I go to the San Francisco Ballet, San Francisco Opera and San Francisco Symphony. It’s just an amazing phenomenon that we have a world-class ballet here in San Francisco. With artistic director and principal choreographer Helgi Tomasson, it’s just extraordinary. He’s a great leader and an understated gentleman. And there’s Glenn McCoy the director, I have great respect for him.
Describe San Francisco style.
Fabulous. To each their own. Throughout the city people really honor their own soul through the fashion that they wear. They’re true to themselves with fashion. That’s what I love about San Francisco.
Any fashion tips for travelers?
I only travel with black. It’s just easy for me. Unless I’m going to an event, then I carry the evening dress.
My Perfect Day
I’d go to Ghirardelli Square. I’ve been working there since the first day they opened. The centerpiece sculpture “Andrea’s Fountain” by artist Ruth Asawa is gorgeous.
Visit the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park. It’s filled with intrinsic beauty where we feel the souls of mankind through the centuries. Then I’d stroll through the Japanese Tea Garden. In the summer, I’d go to a Giants game.
See a performance by the San Francisco Ballet. Afterward, I’d take in “The Bay Lights,” one of the most extraordinary sights that we have now.
Visit Bianchi’s Helpers Bazaar in Ghirardelli Square, 900 North Point St., 415.441.0779, or make an appointment to shop Tom Ford, Balenciaga, Ralph Rucci and more at Helpers House of Couture (2626 Fulton St., 415.387.3031 or 415.609.0658).