San Francisco's Bridal Hideaways

Apparel manufacturing in San Francisco has withered, as it has in many cities, but the bridal sector continues to thrive.

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One $4,800 fitted French lace Ristarose gown is hand-stitched with 100 silk-finished buttons down the back. Details like this are what Rosenzweig likes to emphasize with customers, who, she said, typically comparison shop among local designers and retailers. "The business is the same or better for us, but we're having to work harder," she said.

Establishing a national presence through 30 specialty stores, setting up an interactive Web site and maintaining a busy local bridal clientele is how designer Amy Kuschel's gown business has evolved in the last three-and-a-half years. That's when she moved her wholesale business from a suburban warehouse to a fifth-floor perch on Grant Avenue, around the corner from Maiden Lane.

Kuschel has eight seamstresses, who turn out 500 gowns for local brides and 1,500 for retailers across the country. Brides at any location, including those browsing online, typically have a collection of 20 gowns from which to choose and each style can be altered. Retail prices range from $1,500 to $6,500.

"It's almost mass customization, in a way, but it's more personal," said Kuschel, a Fashion Institute of Technology graduate.

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