Christopher John Rogers & Sherri McMullen Prove Bay Area Fashion Is Thriving

Photograph by Drew Altizer

On May 30th, McMullen—the Oakland, California boutique founded by Sherri McMullen—hosted an event celebrating the designer Christopher John Rogers and his long-standing relationship with the business owner.

It was not, however, your typical fashion event.

Rather than taking place at, say, The Standard or the Zero Bond rooftop, “A Special Night at the Museum with Christopher John Rogers” was held at the top of the Hamon Observation Tower at San Francisco’s de Young museum, with 360 views of the city and a dueling sun and moon lighting the space from either side. But it was the attendees, most importantly, who dispelled any cold-fashion-industry vibes. They weren’t stern, black-clad, silent Amazons stopping by for a free cocktail and some Instagram content—they were true fans of both Rogers and McMullen. And that made all the difference.

McMullen and Rogers.

Photograph by Drew Altizer

McMullen and Rogers greeted guests in head-to-toe CJR apparel like identical twins—fitting, as the designer likened McMullen to a sibling. “Since the beginning, she’s understood the nuances of the brand and been able to communicate that to her customer,” Rogers told W of McMullen at the event. “At this point, she’s kind of a big sister to me.”

The festivities began with a perusing of “Fashioning San Francisco: A Century of Style,” an exhibition of the often-unsung fashion history of the Bay Area—and another reason for the night’s gathering. “What is really important about tonight is this exhibit,” McMullen told W. Among the vintage Dior and Yves Saint Laurent in the de Young’s upstairs gallery are two of Rogers’s designs, both loaned to the museum by McMullen. One, dubbed the Strawberry Dress—with its extreme hourglass proportions and cheerful pink and orange color scheme—has become a signature for Rogers since he debuted the look in his fall 2019 collection, and it plays a large part in Rogers and McMullen’s history.

The Strawberry Dress on display at the de Young Museum.

Photograph by Drew Altizer

During a trip to New York City in 2019, McMullen received a DM from Rogers, asking her to stop by his still-budding studio. “He had these big, beautiful racks of pieces, and I went through each one as he was talking about all the details and his inspiration,” McMullen recalled. “I see so many collections every season, but that one really stood out to me.” McMullen returned to the West Coast, but couldn’t get Rogers’s collection—which included that famed Strawberry Dress—out of her mind. “I kept going through the photos I’d taken. I knew it was something I wanted to have at the store.” So, she called Rogers up and asked if he would fly out to Oakland to host a dinner in his honor. “And then I said, ‘Oh, I also want to buy your line.’”

Photograph by Drew Altizer

With McMullen’s help, Rogers has amassed a loyal following in the Bay Area, whom he sees each time he comes out West for one of McMullen’s events. “We’ve built a little community here with the customers who actually live in the clothes,” Rogers said. And those clients—real people who really shop McMullen and CJR—were present at the event. Doctors, bankers, even a farmer mingled in the designer’s colorful creations.

Following a conversation between Rogers and McMullen, guests were treated to a presentation of the designer’s latest collection (though many of them had already seen—and bought—the newest pieces at McMullen the day prior, where she’d held a styling session with Rogers himself). Unsurprisingly, those in possession of Rogers’s latest wore their new purchases to the event. Often, seeing a model wearing the same look as yours results in death stares of the most fatal variety. But on Thursday night, repeats were met with hoots, hollers, and camaraderie. When it came to this group, the more CJR, the better.

Rogers and McMullen with models in Rogers’s latest collection, along with with fashion show’s producer, Charleston Pierce.

Photograph by Drew Altizer