It’s not often one sees venture capitalist Ron Conway at a woman’s boutique opening — in fact, one has never seen Ron Conway at a woman’s boutique opening — but when PIA recently opened its doors in Jackson Square with a festive cocktail party attended by the City’s tech industry notables and leading tastemakers, it was clear that this is not to be a run-of-the-mill establishment.
Founded by Pia Øien Cohler, a lawyer from Paris who recently wed Matt Cohler, the general partner at venture capital firm Benchmark, PIA is leading a new direction for San Francisco retail.
While the first half of 2016 saw Union Square go big and bold with beautiful new stores from international brands including Giorgio Armani, Dior and Dolce & Gabbana, this fall it’s the season of the small, curated boutique, best epitomized by PIA, that offers rare pieces from more cutting-edge designers.
Opening within weeks of each other, PIA at 414 Jackson, Hero Shop at 982 Post Street, and Intermix at 2223 Fillmore, offer highly personalized service, one-of-a-kind items, and a relaxed atmosphere that feels like shopping with your friends.
And what friends! Among Pia Cohler’s coterie of well-wishers to come out for a night of celebration and shopping were Dr. Priscilla Chan, Nicole Systrom, Josh Kirshner, Alison Pincus, Stephanie Harbin, Rebecca Revel, Sabrina Buell and Yves Behar, Gabi Holzwarth, CeCe Cheng, Melody McClosky, Jessica Verilli, and Eliza Nguyen, among others.
After passing beneath Natalie Bowen Designs‘ arbor of stunning cerise hydrangeas at the entrance, guests mingled as they toured the boutique to beats from DJ Choimatic, grabbing must-have pieces from Zac Posen, Nina Ricci, Giambattista Valli, David Koma, and Roksanda along the way.
Of course, what party is complete without an Instagramable moment — and that was supplied by an ingenious art installation by Anna-Alexia Basile and Sean Newport, a brilliant kaleidoscope piece you simply have to see in person.
The celebratory mood was continued a few days later by Sloan Barnett, who hosted a chic ladies luncheon at the store, catered by Taste, and decorated with stunning flower arrangements from Claire Marie.
Both women share the common bond of having been lawyers before moving to San Francisco’s Pacific Heights (Sloan Barnett had been assistant district attorney to the prestigious Southern District of New York which, as Pia puts it, “is as cool as it gets in lawyer world!”)
Sloan recalled how welcoming and wonderful many of her friends at the table were when she relocated here 11 years ago. “I really have never forgotten how a town could embrace you,” she said, as she toasted Pia in a lovely welcoming to what is now her new town.
During lunch one noticed that the boutique is very much a family affair, when Pia’s dashing brother-in-law, the award-winning interior designer Eric Cohler, stopped by — he created the store’s interiors!
Actress Connie Nielsen, Eventbrite CEO Julia Hartz, Anne-Sophie Deneve, Allison Speer, Nina Stanford, Mary Beth Shimmon, Sarah Somberg, Anna Garavazzi, Angelique Griepp, Mary Gonsalves Kinney, Lisa Zabelle, Lisa Zanze, Dr. Carolyn Chang, and Yurie Pascarella, among others, attended the luncheon — the first of what will surely be many visits to PIA by San Francisco’s most stylish women.
Or as Sloan observed, “I don’t need to shop online anymore, I can just shop right here!”