Christopher Collins of San Rafael

Fashion designer and Southern California native Christopher Collins lives on a hill in Marin, with his partner, J.J. Beck, two dogs and a gorgeous black Australorp chicken named Bella. From here he can see where his grandparents lived, a place he visited as a child, and just down the street is the dance studio where his mom took ballet. “I love it here; we both have hectic work schedules and Marin is the ideal antidote,” he says. After working as a visual merchandiser for Neiman Marcus while a student at San Francisco State University, he moved to L.A. to work in the business. Two years ago, he and his lifelong friend (they met at Park Dale Lane Elementary school in Encinitas) Erica Tanamachi moved to the Bay Area to start his namesake collection. Collins credits their partnership for the success. Read on to learn more about him, and see part of his collection here.

What inspires you here in Marin? Now I appreciate the green mountains spotted with trees and the occasional deer, the enormous moody clouds that are constantly passing through, and the water. Perhaps it’s from growing up on the beach, but I love being around water in motion.

If you were to open a boutique in Marin, where would it be? it would be in Sausalito because I’d love a view of the city over the bay.

What inspired you to become a fashion designer? It’s a craft I’ve been inspired by, and then during a fashion/sewing class at SFSU I realized that I could make it my career. Perhaps most inspirational was learning operatic amounts about the industry from dress designer Tadashi Shoji.

Why does your partnership work? I design clothes, and as a former filmmaker, Erica is trained to pull together threads to make a story. Her great grandfather was Frank Loyd Wright, and the funny thing is my grandma’s house was a sort of tribute to Wright’s work. At times it feels like our partnership has been predestined.

What is never out of style? Lipstick.

What should never be in style? Crocs.

Where do you see yourself in five years, 10 years…20? I am very passionate about using the skills that come naturally to me in a greater capacity to make a positive impact on society. For instance, I would like to eventually form a fund or foundation that a portion of our annual proceeds would go into. This money would go toward helping AIDS/HIV relief in places like Africa and women’s rights groups. Currently we are speaking with and researching appropriate organizations with which to join forces.

What “label” are you comfortable with as a designer? The category we fall into most is “contemporary couture” or luxury sportswear.

Style-wise, men in Marin could…I’m not sure; otherwise I’d take the advice myself!

Style-wise, women in Marin could…Embrace their body. Dress for the occasion and most of all for themselves. My focus
as a designer is to provide styles for women that look age-appropriate and take them through their day feeling good about their self-image.

Have you found your favorite restaurant in Marin yet? I’m still exploring, but so far I’m hooked on Sol Food in San Rafael.

How do you want to be remembered? Since my clothes will outlast me, I’d like to be remembered through others’ experience of wearing my designs. I am drawn to texture and the sensation of fabrics, so wearing my pieces provokes a woman to feel positive and beautiful…and also to remembered as a really nice guy.

Mimi Towle

Mimi Towle has been the editor of Marin Magazine for over a decade. She lived with her family in Sycamore Park and Strawberry and thoroughly enjoyed raising two daughters in the mayhem of Marin’s youth sports; soccer, swim, volleyball, ballet, hip hop, gymnastics and many many hours spent at Miwok Stables. Her community involvements include volunteering at her daughter’s schools, coaching soccer and volleyball (glorified snack mom), being on the board of both Richardson Bay Audubon Center. Currently residing on a floating home in Sausalito, she enjoys all water activity, including learning how to steer a 6-person canoe for the Tamalpais Outrigger Canoe Club. Born and raised in Hawaii, her fondness for the islands has on occasion made its way into the pages of the magazine.