GM Nobu Ichimura Talk What it’s Like to be the Cool Kids on the Block
Written By: Raphael Madrid
Photographed By: Andrea Domjan
It’s rare to find a place with amazing culture, creativity and community that you can connect with, but to find all that within a retail store is absolutely impossible—unless you’re at Blends. This neighborhood sneaker/streetwear boutique has been a Southern California staple since its inception in 2003, and has continued to root itself in communities ever since. Blends is the premier place to find some rare and limited footwear, as well as contemporary pieces that will undoubtedly upgrade your wardrobe. With six locations spread throughout Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties, it’s never been easier to find a space that inspires and cultivates a creative culture.
During a time when there was no such thing as a “sneaker boutique,” Blends paved the way when they opened their first concept location in Costa Mesa in 2003. They were one of the first to bridge the gap of different aesthetics, “blending” street cultures and bringing them under one roof.
Like any company, Blends started small. They were just a small storefront with big things in mind. “When we open each store, we usually go into areas that aren’t very popular, so we try to develop together with the community,” says Blends General Manager, Nobu Ichimura. This concept of growing with and within the community has proved to be a great decision. Their downtown Los Angeles location for example, first opened their doors in 2006, in an area particularly close to Skid Row, and has since worked with other like-minded businesses to create something worthwhile.
Each Blends location is as unique as the communities they serve. Unlike most retail chains that have the same standard set up, Blends is unrivaled in their creativity in constructing remarkable retail spaces. “The owners, Mike [Toe] and Tak [Kato] designed and built each store themselves,” says Nobu. “Each location has a unique concept and design.” With an overarching minimalist effort throughout their locations, no effort is wasted in bringing a unique shopping experience to all that visit. Their San Diego store is modeled after a traditional Japanese Zen garden, the Downtown LA location was inspired by an art gallery and Costa Mesa displays all their footwear within large grocery aisle-style freezer doors.
For the last 15 years, Blends has dedicated itself to curating the best of the best from brands like Nike, adidas and Vans, but also has been known to spotlight the new, upcoming brands that show excellent potential. They’ve linked up with a plethora of fantastic brands to create special exclusives that fans have come to seek out. They’ve collaborated with Ralph Lauren on denim in 2010, Red Wing on a pair of boots in 2011, Disney on a Winnie the Pooh collection in 2012 and so on.
In particular, the collaborations between Blends and Vans have been known to cause quite a bit of excitement. Nobu recalls that “Vans is like our family and we have a really good partnership with them because they are also SoCal based.” Since their first collab in 2010, the two footwear giants in their respective spaces have put together 12 successful projects including their rare and highly sought after “Bones” collection of silhouettes—which alters the classic Vans ‘Old Skool’ and ‘Sk8-Hi’ stripe to a bone-shaped reimagination.
Blends is a brand that elevates taste, and transforms your expectations on what a retail space should look like. They carry fashion brands that are heavily influenced by a minimalist vision, and footwear that isn’t of the norm. Blends is a hub of the fashion-forward, yet delivers a timeless aesthetic that never goes out of style.
If you have yet to visit Blends, expect a unique experience at every stop. While their storefronts are not particularly large like their shopping mall counterparts, the quality and rarity in the things you find at Blends will not be anywhere else. It’s like a gallery or a showroom—no cash register, no unnecessary clutter, nothing you’re used to. You may just find yourself browsing for hours, unable to decide what you want most.
More the Merrier: Blends has three unique locations in Los Angeles, two in Orange County and one in San Diego.
Native Knowledge: Blends is known to harbor a lot of foot traffic on Saturdays when there are major sneaker releases.
Blends Costa Mesa
2930 Bristol St, Ste B104
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Blends Santa Ana
200 E 4th St
Santa Ana, CA 92701
Blends San Diego
719 8th Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
Blends Beverly Hills
217 S Beverly Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90212