Converting shipping containers into fully functional shops is nothing new—London's Boxpark, which opened in 2011, was the first to use them in an outdoor pop-up mall, and a Starbucks in Tukwila, Washington, just south of Seattle, followed suit last year—but that doesn't mean we don't get excited each time a forward-thinking retailer gives the clunky metal boxes a new life.
Aether Apparel is the latest brand to open a sustainable storefront in the San Francisco pop-up shopping hub Proxy, a two-block project of shops, galleries, and restaurants all made from renovated shipping containers.
Previously, Aether Apparel teamed up with the Paris-based designer Thierry Gaugain to create its traveling mobile store, the AETHERstream, which made its way to Boston, Dallas, New York City, and California. For AETHERsf, it has enlisted Gaugain again, along with the award-winning design firm Envelope A+D.
"A shipping container is essentially an extremely rigid element, but it's only on the exterior," says co-founder Palmer West in an interview with Cool Hunting. "You can take everything away and it's still completely structurally sound... [We] sort of geeked out for a while on [doing] this," he adds while discussing the AETHERstream's limited inventory, a problem that was solved in the San Francisco location with a conveyor system rigged throughout the three floors, functioning as both storage and display.
"We want people to come in and feel [that it's] an inviting location," says co-founder Jonah Smith. "We try to convey that in the Aether way, which is maybe sort of a little more modern and a little more industrial, but still feeling warm at the same time." If you visit, be sure to head up to the second floor to relax in the glass-encased cantilevered lounge.
AETHERsf is located at 489 Hayes Street in San Francisco. Its outpost location is at 6100 Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles.
For more San Francisco shopping, see our Neighborhood Watch: Mission District for the lowdown on how the Bay Area's coolest destination is trading in its signature scruffiness for a more refined, adult appeal.
—Andrew Villagomez is a freelance LGBT, travel, and pop-culture writer. Follow him at @AndyVeeNYC.