Wilkes Bashford files for bankruptcy

November 10, 2009 7:02:35 PM PST
Hard times have landed in some unexpected places and among them is a San Francisco clothing store catering to the rich and famous. Wilkes Bashford had already closed its satellite stores and laid off some employees. And on Tuesday, it announced Chapter 11 bankruptcy and a new buyer.

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At Wilkes Bashford in San Francisco, it would be simplistic, but true, to say that hard times still wear pretty well -- especially for those who can afford $1,500 for a pair of shoes.

"Wait till you walk in them. You'll think they're a bargain," said store founder Wilkes Bashford.

You can tell Bashford has made that pitch before. This is, after all, a sartorial candy store, but since the economic downturn, there have been fewer customers.

Wilkes Bashford announced a Chapter 11 bankruptcy and pending sale to a high end East Coast retailer, who promises to keep the style and the name.

"If you have spent 43 years creating something, you want to see it go on," said Bashford.

Bashford made his reputation with socialites and high end customers. When you dress Arnold Schwarzenegger or Nancy Pelosi, you earn a certain cache.

But there is one customer, in particular, and his $600 hats who made the place notorious.

"Willie Brown has done more for this store than anyone I can think of," said Bashford.

Bashford plans to keep working, selling and schmoozing. It is soft landing, he says, in rough times, for this, the most rarified and customized of shopping environments.

"We've had sales in the $150,000-$200,000 range," said Bashford.

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