Ayesha Curry’s Sweet July
By Lou Fancher
At Sweet July, fashion and design are represented by far more than clothing and home goods. The new one-stop retail shop and café, opened in downtown Oakland in January 2021 by restaurateur and best-selling cookbook author Ayesha Curry, houses a lifestyle. Within the store’s luminous space, the tale of a beautiful life lived in graceful and inclusive harmony in which peace, fellowship and kinship prevail is narrated in part with carefully curated products delivered largely by Black-owned businesses as well as products created by Bay Area-based makers, mostly women.
The “story” of a well-designed, fashionable life is staged in the store’s quietly sophisticated brick-and-mortar interior setting designed by Curry and Christine Lin of Bay Area design firm Form + Field. Intimate nooks and gathering “rooms,” designed with butter-to-chocolate-toned woods, velvety tan-and-peach seating and white marble columns and countertops, create a welcoming atmosphere signaling this is a hub. It is a gathering place in which people set aside divisiveness to share and celebrate the triumphs, tips, advice, expertise, street smarts and innovation available to everyone in the East Bay and beyond. In such an environment, the products displayed become more than commerce; they are items sparking conversations, consultations, education, awareness and even friendships.
It’s not audacious to include “and beyond” in the store’s sphere of influence or to suggest long-term bonds are formed within the physical boundaries of its four walls. The power behind Curry’s brand to drive the fashion and design industry beyond the Bay Area is real, regardless of whether it is delivered in-person, in-print or online. Curry is, along with her notable achievements as a best-selling cookbook writer, many additional things. In April 2020, prior to the opening of the retail store, she partnered with the Meredith Corporation to launch Sweet July, the quarterly magazine described on the website as featuring the voices of “real, relatable women” that serves as “an outlet for young men and women which celebrates diversity and inclusivity.” A line of Sweet July products can be found at the store, along with Curry’s signature bread pudding served at the café.
Not enough? Additionally, Curry is, with Chef Michael Mina, also the founder/owner of International Smoke, a restaurant concept featuring elevated barbecue dishes from around the globe with locations in San Francisco, Del Mar and Las Vegas. She hosts the Ayesha’s Home Kitchen TV show on the Food Network and—along with her husband, NBA star and Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry—the parent of three children; daughters Riley and Ryan, and son Canon. In 2019, she and her husband founded the charity known as Eat. Learn. Play. The organization’s mission to end childhood hunger and ensure access to quality education is geared for a worldwide audience, but Curry and her family also engage in frequent initiatives and projects in the Bay Area, and in Oakland in particular.
Sweet July carries products under four broad categories: Bedding, Kitchen + Dining, Living and Self + Wellness. The categories blossom into bed and kitchen linens, tableware, apparel, cookbooks, candles, jewelry, and many more products. With family always centered in Curry’s focus, items for people of all ages include several for kids: Bella Tunno wonder plates, suction bowls and spoon sets, children’s picture books, and a stunning CanDid Art day + night reversible quilt with bold black-white-orange graphics that cartwheel across a medium powder-blue background. The quilt’s flip side springs to life with a dynamic black-and-white design providing contrast. The beauty of the two-sided quilt lends itself as much to wall art—x2—as it does to keeping a toddler warm on a winter’s night.
In the shop this season are standouts from featured designers such as 54 Thrones, Baby Tress, ByChari, Candice Luter, CanDid Art, Cuyana, Fellow, InBooze, Johanna Howard Home, Omi Woods, People of Color Beauty, Rose + Co. Candlemakers, UNWRP and others.
First among the highlights to note are CanDid Art earth + water’s reversible quilted jackets in gold or black with white graphics and sized for children. The reversible, gender-neutral, oversized jacket has snap closures to make for an effortless climb into—and out of—the jacket, and the item is warm enough for fall temperatures or can be worn under a warmer jacket when cooler winter weather arrives.
Warmth and elegance appear in the glowing gold tones and speed designs of ByChari’s simple and stunning necklaces, bracelets and cuffs—and a delicate, handmade Omi Woods necklace, The Coffee Bean, that honors the Ethiopian berry and its ceremonial history. The in-demand item is currently out of stock, so check the website for updates. Store your jewelry treasures in San Francisco-based Cuyana’s Italian leather mini jewelry case in black or ecru that features a zipper closure, soft felted pouch with satin drawstring ribbon and an interior belt to safely secure earrings and rings.
Those who have never entertained the thought of putting an electric kettle on the table and considering it a work of art may find they have a change of mind upon seeing the EKG electric kettle. The kettle is a Sweet July collaboration with Bay Area’s Fellow. The contemporary design and sleek outlines of the matte-black kettle belie its practical functionality: hot water in minutes at the perfect temperature for a cuppa joe or tea. A temperature displayed on the thermometer signals when the water is hot, and flipping a hidden toggle on the back reverts the kettle to HOLD mode to maintain the desired temperature for 60 minutes. All that usefulness, and undeniable black beauty too: it could be the store’s subtitle.
Of course, there are a few items and one to-do without which a visitor must not leave the store. A copy of the latest Sweet July magazine or one of Curry’s cookbooks—or another cookbook penned by a woman who is a local chef or restauranteur—are givens. Catch a last glimpse of the large-scale mural of Lignum vitae blooms—Jamaica’s national flower—painted on one of the shop’s walls. Rendered by Curry’s brother, Jaz, and celebrating her native heritage, she says the joyous, uplifting blooms represent a “family heirloom.” Lastly, depending on the weather, visitors should include in their purchases a Sweet July sweatshirt or T-shirt. The sweatshirt in black is designed and embroidered in the Bay Area with a reminder from Curry to “walk good.” The soft tan T is made with 100% certified fair trade organic cotton and designed locally, and its “Sweet July” is printed in the Bay Area. Both tops are strong reminders of leisurely afternoons shopping in community in Oakland at Sweet July. The store’s name, by the way, pays tribute to the month in which Curry and her husband celebrate the anniversary of their wedding, and the birthdates of their three children.