Robert Lim is a freelance writer based in Connecticut. He mostly writes about the way the worlds of style, music, and culture interact, including for his newsletter Birds of a Feather.
As we enter summer, 2020 is starting to feel like the staycation on steroids. And maybe that’s not a bad thing, not entirely. For one thing, it’s an opportunity to deepen our engagement with our local community. Which is important - because the communities we’ve built are dependent on it. As an example of what can come from this, I want to share how I came to be writing for 3sixteen.
I initially met Andrew, then Johan, through Self Edge - specifically, when Andrew partnered with SE co-owners Kiya and Demitra Babzani to open their New York store in 2009. I knew Andrew and Kiya virtually through the Superfuture online community, and theirs were some of the faces I matched with screen names at the store’s opening party. The next year, I moved a little further afield, about two hours away from the city. It’s close enough to pop down, but far away enough that everybody reacts like you just traveled a long way and made a special trip just to be there.
Over the course of making those trips, I realized that I wanted to always have that Self Edge space there. To me, it wasn’t just a place to buy some of the best men’s clothing in the world; it was a portal into a community of people who cared deeply about the things I cared about. So whenever I bought something from Self Edge, I went out of my way to try and buy it from that particular store. That meant phoning and emailing more than I was used to, but along the way, it helped me get to know Andrew and the team a little bit better. If I wanted something specific from a brand they carried, they’d be happy to order it just for me. I’d stop by when I was in the neighborhood, and go to the parties they’d host. Over time, we found we had a lot in common.
I started writing to express my thoughts on culture and style - first for myself, and then eventually for 3sixteen, among others. The best part is being able to work with people whose values I share: people with whom it’s worth making a special trip to catch up. I am grateful to Andrew, Kiya, and Johan for this unexpected path in my life, and I still think about the role Self Edge NY played more than a decade ago.
The reason I’m sharing this with you is this: when you make the decision to shop with a small business locally, you’re opening up the possibility of a relationship beyond a simple transaction. That idea is at the heart of 3sixteen’s desire to have physical stores, including the one that’s about to open shortly in New York City. If you’ve visited the one in Los Angeles, you might know that it can be a way to explore, discover, and connect - and not just about what 3sixteen makes. My conversations there have spanned across design, music, and plants (it’s secretly a great place to buy plants). I’ve learned about places to eat and drink in Los Angeles that have become my favorites, too.
And perhaps most importantly - by shopping locally, you’re also helping to shape what services and goods are available to your community. I believe this will be essential to preserving what’s important to us going forward. A lot of small businesses are facing the biggest struggle of their existences, no matter how long they’ve been around. Just take a moment to pause and imagine: what would your city or town feel like to you without your favorite spots?
The big online tech retailers - like the one with a fancy membership that gives away content like it’s the free toy in a Happy Meal - are going to be just fine. It’s the small shops, the ones that offer a different voice, that I'm worried for. They may not say it, but they need your support more than ever. In a very real way, giving them your business is you saying that you want them around in your life. Even if you’d need to make a special trip to stop by.