House of Hengst is that store on Valencia near 20th Street with the window so fancy that you might not feel grown up enough to actually go inside. It’s not quite hidden, but is sandwiched between countless bookstores, cafes and furniture stores.  Every time I passed this store I’ve always oohed and aahed at the display, and promised myself that I would make my way back when I had time. But when I did have time I always thought it’d be out of my price range (free) anyway so why bother. 

But I finally stopped making excuses when I saw the black “Siren” dress in the storefront. It was finally time. And what I discovered was a gem of a store.

Venus dress accessorized with a scarf
“Venus” dress accessorized with a scarf

Designer Susan Hengst opened House of Hengst about ten years ago. It’s survived the boom and bust of the bubble. And it’s no wonder with simple silhouettes, classic styles and basics that every woman (and now man) must have in the wardrobe—think LBD, and the oh-so versatile nude palette.

Originally from Holland, Michigan, the Dutch designer (Hengst means stallion in Dutch) studied fashion in Alameda and decided to put roots down in San Francisco. As the Mission District changed over the years her boutique was a constant in the neighborhood. Now it’s a favorite for residents of the Mission, as well as a destination shop for patrons all over the city.

“I know her designs, and I still see people wearing stuff from five lines ago. The clothes are great quality so they last. The best way to describe the clothes…timeless,” said Joy Hengst, the designer’s niece, who also works in the boutique.

Some "Mod Squad" pieces
Some “Mod Squad” pieces

With a versatile style aesthetic, mom, daughter and grandma can all find something in the store that suits them perfectly. And with a menswear line that launched earlier this year it’s a go-to for everyone.

With a mid-range price point—a dress could run you $174—and rich fabrics like silk, and cashmere, the Hengst line boasts a classic sophistication and timelessness. I could see myself wearing a House of Hengst coat or dress for the next ten years. More creative pieces in the line, like the specialty Mod Squad pieces inspired by 60’s mod fashion, will always take a break then make a stunning comeback, so you can store them until they’re back on trend.

The "Sojourn" jacket is a fave
The “Sojourn” jacket is a fave

With a studio in New York and sales in London, Asia and Paris, House of Hengst is really making a name for itself internationally. It’s refreshing to see a boutique from San Francisco really bust down the fashion door selling simple, quality clothes. And with the economy these days, people want their high fashion high quality. From now until Christmas you can have a little egg nog while you browse the store for your new favorite pieces. Fashion’s always better with a little drink. Enjoy!

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