52 Strangers Project | Strangers #17 | Oakland Lifestyle Photographer

May 3, 2021

Most weekends find my husband and me out looking for a new adventure. One of our favorite pastimes is wandering through unexplored neighborhoods. On a recent visit to the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco, we stumbled into a small custom clothing and shoe store, where I met stranger #17.


Stranger #17

Al’s Attire is a custom clothing and shoe boutique owned by Al Ribaya. Entering the store, we were delighted to browse the funky collection of custom-made clothes, shoes, hats, and bags.

We were even more delighted to meet Al, the man behind the store. Al grew up in SF and has lived there his entire life. He opened his shop more than 30 years ago. When I told him that he didn’t look old enough to have been open for 30 years, he joked that he opened the shop when he was 6!


His shop was a photographer’s paradise, and I could have stayed all day capturing the vintage equipment, rolls of material, and custom shoe forms. It felt like I was in a haberdashery from the ’30s. He still uses a vintage embroidery machine to hand stitch his designs. And speaking of vintage, in addition to custom crafting his products, he loves to incorporate vintage materials into his designs.


He has a new Covid inspired collection, called ‘Fight the Virus’. He incorporates vintage 1970’s DC comic superhero into his designs. We couldn’t resist buying a denim jacket with Spiderman on the back for my husband. It’s a real work of art that we intend to put on display in our home.


Al also filled me in on some history of the neighborhood. He was wearing a custom piece of jewelry from Macchiarini Creative Design Jewelry and Sculpture, a San Francisco Legacy business started in 1948 which spans three generations, two centuries and 68 years. The current owner is Dan. Dan’s father was Peter and there are steps named after him. Located near the Vallejo Street Stairway, the Peter Macchiarini Steps commemorate the San Francisco modernist sculptor and jeweler. Coincidentally, we had just climbed the steps on our walk through the area.


I could have stayed in Al’s store for hours, but I’m sure he had work to do. Thanks, Al, we can’t wait to pick up my husband’s jacket!

Be sure to check back next week to see who I meet next.

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