Jeri Ospital, the hip matriarch of SF’s Modern Appealing Clothing, dies at 94
In 1983, Modern attractive clothes was a fledgling boutique on the edge of the Tenderloin known for up-and-coming designers such as Todd Oldham, Anna Sui and Marc Jacobs. Founded in 1980 by Jeri Ospital, her daughter Chris and son Ben, the store also had a reputation as a social space where Bay Area creatives often met while browsing the shelves.
But with a mention of Herb Caen in its Chronique column, the shop enters a new stratosphere.
“Madonna popped up one day, out of the blue, on her ‘Like a Virgin’ tour,” Ben Ospital recalls.
Caen’s chronicle of the visit put MAC on the map. In the four decades since, other high-profile clients have included alt-style icons such as singer-songwriter Amy Sedaris and her brother, writer David Sedaris, filmmaker John Watersactor Frances McDormandfilmmaker Joel Coen and art collectors Norah and Norman Stone.
Remembering that crucial first meeting with a celebrity in the life of the store in a 2016 Oral History Chronicle of the store, Jeri Ospital also recalled that the superstar “was really adorable as can be”.
Many agreed the same could be said of Jeri Ospital, who died at 94 of heart failure on October 5 in San Francisco. Together with her children, Ospital transformed the MAC, now located in Hayes Valley, into a unique fashion destination specializing in avant-garde clothing touted by The Chronicle, New York Times, Vogue and MTV. Her presence as a hip matriarch of MAC, smartly dressed and wearing her signature lipstick, helped establish a sense of family and community not usually associated with high-end fashion boutiques.
“She was our Aunt Mame,” Ben Ospital told The Chronicle weeks after his mother’s death, comparing her to author Patrick Dennis’ beloved character. “But she had no delusions of grandeur; she had illusions of pleasure. And she was so typically San Francisco. She was also interested in the life of a patron or a sex worker; she lent them an equal ear.
“That spirit is what we’ve always tried to do with the people in the store,” Chris Ospital, who noted that their mother was as likely to dine with experimental writer Kathy Acker as socialite Dodie Rosekrans, added to both friends and clients at the MAC, and that she had tea with punk rock fashion designer Vivienne Westwood. “We are then his children in this regard.
Award-winning food writer Peggy Knickerbocker, a longtime friend of the fashion family, said Jeri Ospital “always wanted to be where the action was, and she was always included by Chris and Ben in everything. It’s rare to see this kind of bond between mothers (adults) and children.It’s very old world.
In The Chronicle MAC oral historycultural critic Cintra Wilson called the Ospitals “San Francisco’s first fashion family”.
Jeri Ospital was born Geraldine Etcheverry on April 15, 1928 in Fullerton, Orange County, the second of four children born to Mary and Martin Etcheverry, both from Bayonne, France. She would retain a lifelong connection to her Basque heritage and had an early love of fashion, which her children attribute in part to a rebellion against the uniforms of her Catholic boarding school.
“When we were growing up, his style was much more I. Magnin“, Ben Ospital said. “Later she moved on to things like Nehru suits. On one level, she was bohemian, but she had everything tailored.
When Jeri Ospital was president of her PTA high school, Chris Ospital said it was common for classmates to see her Courrèges mod dresses and say, “Oh my god, your mom dresses so cool.”
Jeri Ospital earned a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the College of Saint Mary-of-the-Wasatch in Salt Lake City. After moving to San Francisco, she was introduced to Benjamin Ospital in April 1950 at a restaurant in North Beach. Benjamin Ospital was also Basque and had grown up in France after being born in San Francisco.
“Mom and dad were both kind of black sheep in their families,” Ben Ospital said. “They were deeply informed by this free-thinking culture of North Beach. Later, growing up in the suburbs, we realized our parents were basically Beatniks.
Jeri and Benjamin Ospital were married in December 1950. After Chris and Ben were born, the family moved in the early 1950s to Stockton, where Jeri and Benjamin opened the Ospital Villa Basque restaurant with Benjamin’s brothers, Jean and To fart. While their parents ran the restaurant, the siblings said they not only learned Basque cuisine, but also connected with local farmers and French winemakers in the area and learned to appreciate the culture. gatherings.
Anton Steubner, who worked as a sales associate at MAC from 2012 to 2017, said a love of connection through food has also informed the family’s ethos in the fashion industry.
“These are people who will stop a sale transaction to make a reservation at a restaurant you haven’t been to and recommend the gnocchi,” said Steubner, now gallery director Catherine Clark. “There is value for them in sharing community and special experiences with others, and that comes down to Jeri.”
Indeed, photographer Henny Garfunkel noted of the Ospitals that “there’s this offer of togetherness and friendship that comes when you walk into the store, and it comes back to my dear Jeri with that twinkle in her eye.”
In 1978, the couple retired from the restaurant and moved back to San Francisco. When her husband died later that year, Jeri Ospital followed her children to New York and became manager of the famous Bird Cage restaurant at Lord & Taylor department store.
After Jeri Ospital returned to San Francisco in 1979, her children joined her.
In 1980, the three founded MAC near the Lower Nob Hill apartment where Jeri Ospital lived for 44 years. The store was originally filled with young designers Ospitals knew from New York and later gained a reputation for featuring Japanese and Belgian brands such as Like boysDries Van Noten and Walter Van Beirendonck.
“Make It” author and host Simon Doonan designed the store’s windows in the 1980s. oral history, Doonan described the dynamic between the Ospitals “like the Gabor sisters. They could tell a story between the three of them.
Jeri Ospital was in the store almost daily for over 30 years, only slowing down in the last decade. She was a longtime supporter of Creative growth and Creativity explored art centers for neurodiverse artists. In addition to art, she collected English and Chinese antiques and loved waking up in her Chinese marital bed with its view of the city.
Jeri Ospital was also a longtime volunteer with Project Open Hand and a regular presence at the Saturday Farmers’ Market at the San Francisco Ferry Building.
Chris and Ben Ospital called their mother a “committed left-wing democrat” and said she remains politically active. Although she did not participate in MAC’s 2017 lawsuit against Ivanka Trump alleging unfair advantage as a fashion retailer, Ben Ospital said her mother supported the suit.
Jeri Ospital summed up her retail philosophy in the oral history“Tell a person the truth. You give them three outfits and see what they like. If they go home and like the outfit, you have a client.
In addition to her two adult children, Jeri Ospital is survived by Ben’s husband, Nathaniel Anderson. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in their name for Compass Family Services C-Rent Fund. Funeral services will be private.