AMONG THE MANY West End shops springing up with remarkable frequency is the small, serious Self Edge. Married owners Kiya and Demitra Babzani actually live in San Francisco, where they also have a store, along with locations in Los Angeles and New York. And if you appreciate specialists—you buy your cheese at a cheese shop, your wine at a wine shop—consider getting your denim at a denim shop.
No one's going to stop a woman, but Self Edge is really a man's store (Imogene + Willie is just up the road!). Raw denim jeans and jackets, mainly from Japanese lines like the Flat Head and Strike Gold, anchor it, including a great selection in motorcycle weight. Shirts in gorgeous Japanese fabrics, a small but appealing accessory selection, a bit of literature, and a smattering of shoes round out the store's inventory.
But denim is clearly the passion here. If you ask them, the Babzanis will describe their fascination with the mythic nature of wearing it in. "The wear and fade is from your experiences," Demitra tells me, while Kiya enthuses denim's ability "to transcend all social and cultural classes." Japanese selvedge (note the naming pun) denim made on vintage looms is slightly irregular, Demitra explains, and holds a particular magic distilled in the concept of wabi-sabi, which translates to "the beauty in imperfections." It's this quality, she says, that gives the denim an attractive texture and allows it to "age in such unique ways."
Loving denim is partly about the love of destroying it, but with prices hovering around $300 for a pair of jeans, you won't want to let go of them lightly. So Self Edge has also added denim repair services, taking on any task for a $40 flat rate ($20 if the pair is from their store). "We only work with denim and have every imaginable type of machine and trim," says Kiya, pointing out that they even use "period correct" thread. Another major reason a serious collector might opt for their services over the neighborhood tailor is their 1950s Singer darning machine. Hard to find and out of production, it can fix holes without the use of patches. It "mends the fabric and creates new fabric in place of the missing denim," explains Kiya. The result is subtle and pliable, much softer than the stiff patches that are the standard in modern denim repair.
There's a satisfaction in doing something authentically, and Portland appreciates people who cultivate knowledge in specific fields—in that sense Self Edge is a perfect fit for the city. And while we may have more options than ever for denim, the Self Edge philosophy has the perfectionist's air of correctness. Self Edge, 1022 W Burnside, #J, selfedge.com