When Self Edge took over the old Leather Tongue Video space a few years back, I thought to myself, “Oh great, some high-end Marina douche boutique has displaced a beloved Mission landmark.” Over beers the other night, Kiya Babzani, owner-operator of the place, informed me that apparently this was a pretty common misconception in the early days, as Self Edge was repeatedly vandalized and he and his employees were shouted at, muttered at and spat at.
Mind you I’d never patronized Leather Tongue, because who the fuck has even seen a VCR in the last 12 years? But it looked pretty punk rock and I guess I liked knowing it was there.
Now it’s gone, but its iconic signage lives on on the wall at Bender’s Bar. We grabbed a table right under it and talked Self Edge. At 18, Kiya (bespectacled in above photo) got obsessed with denim, indigo and Japan’s obsession with old American stuff, and a little over a decade later he found himself ready to open the only store in the country specializing in nothing but Japanese reproductions of vintage American garments. He opened it in his favorite neighborhood, where he’d been living since age 20, and it was a success from the start. Despite static from neighborhood haters, there was a global community of aficionados ready to jetset their way to the Mission to browse the wares of such a discerning specialty shop.
In fact, as seems to be customary, upon arriving at Bender’s, Kiya ran into several people he knew, and among them were a pair of travellers from London called Jon and Angi that had been by the shop earlier in the day. They’re newlyweds on an epic journey around the world, and though they had but a couple days in San Francisco, they spent two full hours at Self Edge. Jon said that of all the retail shops in all the cities they’ll visit on their year-and-a-half-long intercontinental tour, Kiya’s tops the list, by a longshot. He had a boatload of jeans shipped back to England.
Denim obsession is a fascinating thing. Kiya for instance wears the same pair of jeans every day for six months, then retires them forever and moves onto the next. He buys jeans that don’t fit him, and never will, solely because of their artistic merit. He knows all about dyes and stitches and can explain exactly why my Levi’s have holes in certain places and not others.
Some people nerd out over vinyl or bourbon or bike parts or comics. Others lose their minds over jeans.
Kiya and his fellow obsessives trade news and knowledge on a website called Superfuture, a lively community with forums devoted to travel and shopping – and denim in particular. People live their lives on this thing, keeping track of new innovations, new endeavors and new collaborations. Self Edge collaborates with other organizations and manufacturers and designers on a regular basis. We mentioned their most recent one last week, and next on the horizon is a jean even more certain to blow minds on the forums.
There’s this user called ringring, respected above most others for his comprehensive knowledge of denim and textiles and the whole history of fashion. Nobody knows who he is or what he does for a living. Nobody, that is, except Kiya. They’d been in touch since ringring made a clandestine early morning visit to the shop a while back, and at some point Kiya managed to convince him to collaborate on a jean. Kiya says the forthcoming single-stitched SEXTXRR10 will not be a standard five-pocket jean. This may mean absolutely nil to the layman, but it’s bound to be big news on Superfuture. And when the release date arrives, people will be lined up around the block, and crashing the Self Edge website’s servers.
But does all of that mean Self Edge isn’t a “Mission business”? The shit’s expensive, but that’s because it’s the shit. Like with Ritual‘s coffee or HMS Beekeeper‘s honey, buyers pay a premium for premium goodness. Moreover, this is a group of people from the neighborhood using the internet to forge meaningful, productive, real-life relationships with people within our little bubble and people well beyond it, and that’s surely something to be celebrated.
This weekend, it all comes together. Self Edge and Superfuture host their annual SuperParty at the shop tonight, sponsored by Fernet, with giveaways from the most prominent garment companies, and it’s sure to draw hundreds and hundreds of partiers from the Mission and around the world. Sunday, the party continues at Bender’s, Kiya’s (and many a Missionite’s) bar of choice, where beer nerds can nerd out on a special barrel-aged brew by Russian River Brewing Company. A seven-ounce pour of Consecration may cost $8, but c’mon, it’s the shit!
Previously in “Fashion”: