Designing Man

How Al Abayan's penchant for deconstruction has become so constructive

"We're making a stand and doing it in San Francisco," he says. "Our look, our attitude is creating a new trend that will be an alternative to New York."

Indeed, Abayan wants San Francisco to be acknowledged as a world design center in its own right. "In New York, everybody does what the magazines tell them," he says. "I don't want to be Calvin Klein or Ralph Lauren. San Francisco should be seen as a different place with well-made things. I want to bring the national eye here and then the world eye."

The comment might seem pretentious beyond all imagining from the lips of most designers. But remember, this is a guy who couldn't sew five years ago, a guy who transformed the sensibility of a car mechanic into the aesthetic of a rising star of design.

Holding one of his bellhop jackets, Abayan is examining a sleeve when the sputter of a passing station wagon distracts him. He hesitates, listening.

"Could be the carburetor," he says.

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