Walk into Frida’s Closet on 25th Street, between Valencia and Bartlett streets, and you might as well be stepping into a tienda in Mexico. That’s where all the clothes come from, after all. They’re bought fair trade from Mexican women artisans, who make them by hand.
Owner Gloria Vidal, who is Venezuelan, began a relationship with the artists — many of whom are single mothers — around four years ago, when she saw that many were not were not getting paid well for their meticulous work.
“The people [in Mexico] want to haggle,” said Marcos Salazar, who works at the store. “If the women put a price, [the people always say], ‘No, cheaper!’”
“She thought, ‘I have to help these people,’” said Salazar of Vidal.
Vidal’s solution: work with the women — who live all over Mexico, from Chiapas to Nayarit — to purchase their clothing fair trade and then sell it elsewhere. Up until recently, she was mostly selling them online, she said. But six weeks ago, she opened up her first store: Frida’s Closet.
Salazar hopes that people will see the clothing as fashionable, not just “folkloric,” he said. He also hopes that the store can become not just a shopping destination, but a pillar of the community — a place where locals can showcase their art, listen to music, and enjoy being in a Latino space.
Already, Frida’s Closet has paintings by local artists on display. More notably, they’ve commissioned a mural on the side of the building: a giant painting of Frida Kahlo, a famous Mexican painter and cultural icon as well as the namesake of Frida’s Closet.
The two muralists, Elaine Chu and Marina Perez-Wong, attended San Francisco School of the Arts together and now have their own company, “Twin Walls Mural Company.” They said they were thrilled to be able to paint the Frida mural.
“As a muralist, and a woman artist, she’s inspirational,” said Chu. “She’s kind of our muse.”
Perez-Wong explained that they tried to put elements into the mural that represented both Mexico and San Francisco: like the Dahlia flowers, which are the national flower of Mexico, and the official city flower of San Francisco.
Also featured: a blue background matching the color of Kahlo’s Mexico city home, a monkey typical of Kahlo’s paintings, and Chu’s cat, Drew.
They’re also adding some distinctly Mission touches: like the now-endangered Mission Blue butterflies that once flourished in the Mission, and the names of local friends who have passed away over the last decade.
“It brings us great joy,” said Salazar of the new mural. “It’s a gift for the people.”
Though Frida’s Closet opened its doors six weeks ago, they are still planning a grand opening event in September – along with an unveiling of the mural, which will be finished in the next few days.
As for Vidal, her wishes for Frida’s Closet are two-fold: in Mexico, she wants the artisans to feel that their work is valued. Here, she wants to create a “cultural movement,” she said, “to display Hispanic and Mexican roots.”
The goal is “that we keep [our culture] alive…and that people feel totally proud of who they are, and where they are from.”