By Stevanie Wazna-Blank
Local online clothing company Betabrand will open its first storefront this weekend at 780 Valencia Street, previously 780 Cafe.
The company’s headquarters have been at Cesar Chavez and Mission streets since 2010, when Betabrand was launched from CEO Chris Lindland’s previous company, Cordarounds. Lindland said that moving to a brick and mortar location on Valencia will “de-virtualize the brand.”
Originally catering mostly to men, the company has branched out to offer women’s products as well. Typical prices are $78 for a gray hooded Henley sweater, $88 for a seersucker wrap dress and $98 for raw denim jeans.
Betabrand has made a name for itself over the past three years with clothing and accessories based on ironic jokes and figures of speech, such as Cordarounds, pants with corduroy ribs that are horizontal rather than vertical. The company claims, tongue in cheek, that the “aerodynamic cords keep up with our fast-paced lives.” Betabrand’s Dress Pants Sweatpants are “more than a pair of pants, they’re an experiment in sartorial subterfuge.”
The company creates a story for every product. The quirky origin story for the Black Sheep Sweater, for example, describes the actual black sheep that the wool comes from. The Elope Dress is designed for the woman who fancies a wedding on the road.
The company’s new space on Valencia won’t just be a clothing store; it will also house Betabrand’s product development process, in which the “making, storytelling and shopping happen in the same place,” Lindland said. Sewing machines on location will be used to make prototypes, with the final products manufactured elsewhere. Materials for most Betabrand products are sourced from Asia and all products are sewn in the SoMa District.
The company also plans to use the new store to expand its Model Citizen program, in which fans can upload photos of themselves wearing Betabrand clothes to the company website and get a discount on a purchase in return. Lindland hopes to have photographers available at the store so customers can have a Model Citizen photo taken by a professional and immediately uploaded.
Betabrand prides itself on being a sort of idea factory, generating up to 10 concepts for potential products each week. The company also encourages customer interaction with product design. On its Think Tank web page, customers can submit design ideas, provide feedback on how to improve merchandise and vote for favorite designs. The products that receive the most votes are initially sold in limited production; the best-selling items are then offered online and the top 80 percent will be available at the storefront.
“The character [of the company] comes from the online experience,” said Liz Rosoff, one of the store’s “show-runners.” Rosoff’s job is to help translate the virtual nature of the brand into the storefront. In addition to having photographers on hand, Betabrand will feature its ongoing public design contests in the store.
As a new neighbor in the Mission, Lindland hopes that Betabrand can learn from businesses like Paxton Gate and 826 Valencia that engage with the Mission community.
“I’m an Internet person, but now with a neighborhood presence. It’s refreshing,” he said. Many neighbors have already stopped by, at first critical of what was happening to 780 Cafe. But Lindland said that responses changed to be more welcoming when people discovered Betabrand wasn’t another restaurant or coffee shop.
The grand opening of Betabrand’s new storefront is scheduled for Saturday, May 11. Store hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.