Photos: Bernardo Arce
We owe a great portion of our success as a denim brand to Self Edge co-founder Kiya Babzani. Not only did he give us insight and advice on how to develop our first jean offering back in 2007, he and his wife Demitra took a chance on our jean offerings by bringing them into their San Francisco store in the Spring of 2009. Later that year, we partnered with them to help open their second location in NYC's Lower East Side, a neighborhood that we had called home for many years already. In 2010, we partnered with them again to open up Self Edge Los Angeles, giving us two locations that we've treated as 3sixteen flagship locations where customers are able to come and see the entire range of what we do as a brand. From that point on, Kiya and Demitra have proceeded to open another storefront in Portland and most recently in San Jose del Cabo last fall, and we couldn't be prouder of the success they've enjoyed. We took some time to chat with Kiya about what drove them to open up their first store outside of the US, and what they've learned over these past few months.
You and your wife Demitra have been consistently vacationing in Mexico for over 10 years now. What is it about this destination that is so special to you?
We had been traveling around the Caribbean and Central America and decided to take a trip closer to our home of San Francisco and randomly chose San Jose del Cabo on a whim. We had a great time on the trip and something about the town called us back, over and over again, and we ended up visiting three or four times a year. The region is fairly new compared to the rest of Mexico so it's changing quite fast and it's been interesting seeing these changes over the years. I love experiencing the infancy stages of something really big happening to a city, and this area is really expanding into areas which are very new for the region. Coffee roasters, breweries, slow food restaurants, and interesting retail is something we take for advantage in the US because of how long we've been doing it, and it's something that exists in the larger cities in Mexico but is quite new to this state in Mexico. It's been a good time being a part of that growing segment by opening Self Edge there and also supporting all the artisans producing beer, coffee, and more in the area.
Despite your affinity for Mexico, our guess is that you had not considered opening a shop here previously. How did that mindset change upon your first visit to Flora Farm?
I always wanted to do a vacation-wear only version of Self Edge; I actually had the idea to do it four years ago, before SEPDX opened, and we even had a space a few doors down from SESF for the shop. We decide to focus on opening in Portland instead, and once that store was open we knew we needed to do the vacation-wear shop and thought doing it in Mexico made sense. The area surrounding SEMX is the perfect environment with beaches, a marina, warm weather year round, and an endless desert for getting stupid in a dune buggy. It's down a dirt road on an organic farm with a restaurant and bar on site. Since SEMX opened a brewery, espresso bar, tequila/mezcal bar, and a few other retail stores have also opened on Flora Farm. We know the entire thing is quite puzzling to our American customers but it'll all makes sense once you arrive.
SEMX is stocked differently from your other locations. Can you walk us through some of these differences and the reason for them?
We've allowed the feel of the local environment dictate what we sell there. We're doing a lot of shorts, swim trunks, sandals, eyewear, and short sleeve shirts. We're even having a SEMX 3sixteen collection made for us consisting only of short sleeved shirts and shorts. For the first time we've taken a dive into the world of women's clothing by stocking Carla Fernandez and 1/8 Takamura. All of Carla Fernandez's fabrics are made in-house on wooden hand-powered looms using native dyes for the yarns, the collection is the perfect balance of what Self Edge represents and traditional Mexican textiles.
Who is the SEMX customer?
We didn't know what to expect when we opened this location, not because of the product mix but because it would be our first location in Latin America. It's been great exposing an entirely new market to what we do and the brands we sell. Just like our stores in the states, our customer base is extremely varied. We're selling to locals, tourists, and of course die-hard Self Edge customers which make the trip to Animas Bajas in San Jose del Cabo just to visit our store.
What’s interested or surprised you in your first 4 months of being open for business?
Easily the number of people that walk through the door dipped head to toe in Self Edge gear. It's been amazing seeing customers of ours who've shopped at our stores in the US come into SEMX just to check out a different side of what our Japanese and American brands produce.
Self Edge Mexico
Calle Privada Sin Nombre S/N
Colonia Animas Bajas, CP23407
San José del Cabo, Baja California Sur
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