The entrepreneur took a childhood passion and turned it into a fulfilling profession.
For 11th State Custom Clothiers founder Catherine Conway, a passion for bringing textiles to life was instilled at a very young age. Her grandmother was a talented seamstress and Conway spent her childhood watching her sew. By the time she was 11, the young girl was designing dresses and asking her grandmother to sew them. “We were each other’s muses,” Conway shares with a warm smile. “And I loved how she would choose my grandfather’s outfit the night before — both his suit and accessories. So I started doing the same thing for my parents. They would wake up every morning with pieces already selected for them.”
Clothing has always been an outlet for Conway to express herself. It’s why she went to the University of Illinois to earn a degree in consumer textile and marketing before spending six months in London studying fashion styling for photography and fashion design. After years of working for other clothiers, she stepped out on her own with 11th State Custom Clothiers, offering made-to-measure and custom men’s clothing. “The number 11 holds great significance in the world of numerology,” Conway explains. “It means ‘master among men,’ and serves as a reminder that I see and hold my clients and those I collaborate with to their highest potential.” And for the last five years, Conway has been creating memorable looks, from well-cut suits to cozy knitwear and eccentric tracksuits.
Located inside Wingtip, a notable men’s social club in the historic former Bank of Italy building in San Francisco’s Financial District, the venue has a rich history which Conway wanted to celebrate. The store is located inside the vault, so she brightened the space with a statement mirror and an assortment of topiaries and fresh flowers. The floor-to-ceiling wall of vintage safety deposit boxes also stands in chic contrast to fabric-lined shelving throughout the store. “I really wanted to make sure I kept the essence of the bank,” she says.
But a customer doesn’t simply walk in and begin shopping. Conway’s approach is more personable. “Whenever I meet a new client, I enjoy sitting down with them and figuring out who they are,” she says. “That way, we can design clothing that will pull out their confidence and make them feel incredible.” After a lively conversation — and perhaps a finger or two of whiskey — inspiration strikes and she will search her extensive fabric collection from internationally renowned manufacturers and fabric mills, including swatches from designers such as Loro Piana, Ermenegildo Zegna, Ariston and more. She narrows down thousands of textiles to a handful of options she believes will speak to her client. “It’s an interactive dance that I’m leading, but they are equally involved,” she adds. “Watching them walk out in their new mastery state is always so fulfilling.”
For her personal style, the Marin resident is intentional. “Every day is an opportunity to become someone new. So when I wake up, I like to ask myself, ‘Who do I want to be today?’” Conway gravitates toward blending consignment with luxury and has a penchant for playful brands like Alexander Wang, Saint Laurent and Isabel Marant. “Going into my wardrobe is a beautiful experience,” she says. “It’s my time to be super creative and tap into my imagination. But I always want to make sure I’m evolving, which is something I focus on with my clientele. I want them to see that when it comes to style, anything is possible.”