Explore San Francisco

Turk + Taylor: Redefining Sustainable

Andrew Soernsen, 38, swings open the door to his NOPA Victorian. It’s Monday afternoon. His sewing machine hasn’t moved from his kitchen table in days. “We’ve sewn tens of thousands of T-shirt tags right there,” he says as he walks into his kitchen, motioning to a dining room set with a pair of vintage, neon-colored bucket seats from the ’70s. Just down the hall, Mark Morris, 34, pops his head out of a room that looks like a scene from the TV show “Hoarders.” He sifts through chest-high piles of boxes, clothes, racks, hangers, and that’s just what you can see from the door. The floor is barely visible. He disappears into a closet in the corner, emerging moments later with a jacket from the Spring 2010 line for Turk + Taylor, a brand the pair launched six years ago with a stack of American Apparel shirts and a bath tub filled with dye. “We found a guy in San Rafael that repairs (boat) sails and keeps old ones for patch materials,” Soernsen says, as he re-acquaints himself with the stark white coat. “He had a loft filled with them and we just bought him out of sails.” No two jackets were alike, and all of the Washington Square coats featured signature stitching left over from the original sails. As far as eco-designers go, Soernsen and Morris are a different breed, redefining the very idea of sustainable. They turned old army blankets into men’s and women’s outerwear in fall ’09, then this spring used the ripstop nylon from a retired hot-air balloon for a collection of uniquely color-blocked windbreakers, cinched kaftans, tanks, and long-sleeves. “We were tired of organics,” Morris says. “It’s not good enough to just be organic anymore. You need to be more innovative. You need to take risks.” Something both believe the city’s denizens are dying to do.

“San Francisco dresses like an art school teacher,” Morris says. “But it’s a consciousness of aesthetic.” “We look at SF as a really good inspiration of aesthetic,” adds Soernsen. “We named a whole collection after San Francisco parks.” Turk + Taylor’s clothes are as utilitarian as they are fun, built for the bay’s bike-riding, Muni-mastering collective. The pair returns to an office space in the middle of the apartment, where their monochromatic, though somehow still surprisingly fresh, fall collection is hung. Soernsen pulls out a new, seven-pocket jacket. “You’ll never really need all seven,” he says. “But if you want somewhere to put your iPod, pen, bike lock, keys ... they’re there.” The bearded Soernsen keeps one hand in a pocket of his Levi’s. He’s wearing a new pair of customized Nike ID kicks, plus IC! Berlin glasses and a hoodie from a past collection with locks screenprinted across his chest and a set of keys on his sleeve. Morris sports a deadstock linen short-sleeve (sewn at the pair’s San Francisco factory), along with vintage black resin frames and thrift store jeans. “People do the vintage look here,” Morris says. “But not everyone wants to shop at Goodwill.”