Without aid or funding, Naiara Usabiaga and Unai Nieves set up Arizona Vintage, one of the new leading brands in this type of fashion
Arizona Vintage has become one of the most popular clothing brands among young people. Based in Bilbao, the most outstanding aspects of this firm are the age of its founders, Naiara Usabiaga and Unai Nieves: 23 and 25, respectively, and the company’s turnover: almost one and a half million euros in 2016.
However, if we want to delve into the origins of Arizona Vintage and of these two young entrepreneurs we must go back to 2012. In those days, Naiara sold her garments through Trendtation – a website similar to Chicfy and 21buttons – where users upload images of their products. In view of the excellent response to her outfits, Naiara soon realized she could carve a career path for herself in the fashion industry.
One year later, and without much knowledge of the industry, Unai and Naiara began to visit flea markets looking for original and unique designs. “Without realising, we would go around buying vintage clothing”, says Naiara. Garments and accessories that were hard to find and that they then sold at music festivals, such as BBK Live or Arenal Sound, and at vintage clothing fairs.
The money they earned was used to purchase more items. “We reinvested the money we made”, says the young woman. Without any financial aid from their families, friends or institutions, the sales figures began to increase and they decided to transform it into a professional business. “We were both studying. Unai was in the last year of his psychology studies and I was in the second year at medical school”, recalls. So, they decided to drop their studies and risk opening their first physical store.
They chose the Old Quarters of Bilbao. Levi’s 501, cowboy style footwear, Navajo style jackets, denim dungarees… “The most difficult part was to manage the logistics of unique garments”, says Naiara referring to one of the defining aspects of the brand: exclusive products “that are no longer in production”.
Sustainable development is another of their concerns. Concerned about today’s production processes that limit the life of garments, all their items are subjected to “strict quality, washing, and sewing controls at our own facilities”, explains Naiara. This ensures their durability and resistance.
They currently have two shops in Bilbao, one in San Sebastian, and another in Madrid. On-line sales through their website have enabled them to reach out to the rest of the world and they also organise secret sales in various cities throughout Spain. This year, their followers in Zaragoza, Seville, Valencia, Galicia, and Barcelona will have the chance to admire their catalogue in person. In addition, they are preparing to launch in Germany and France and plan to open a YouTube channel.
Young ideas from two minds that never rest. “Every day we go home thinking about everything we have to change the following day”, admits Naiara. Although for some people, the age at which they embarked on this project may pose a difficulty, they found it to be a great challenge. “Perhaps the innocence with which we started out shielded us from the magnitude of the business we were getting into”, says Naiara. “But having to adapt to all these new aspects was rather natural. We enjoyed it”, she adds. Is youth the secret to their success? Naiara prefers to believe that the reputation acquired has to do with the “outstanding team” they have.
“Fair and decent” working conditions
In a matter of a few years, these two Basque youths have built a leading brand in vintage clothing that mainly appeals to people aged 13 to 35. The couple learn by “trial and error” and, along the way, they have had some negative experiences. “We have lost friends by giving them jobs when we started out. It is very difficult to separate work and friendship, especially when you are growing so quickly and learning every day” says the young woman. Disappointments that they have overcome with the assistance of “a staff selection company with which we have learned a lot”.
Arizona Vintage currently employs a team of 13 people with whom “establishing a relationship based on friendship is an incredibly positive experience”. If there is one thing that is important for Naiara and Unai when strengthening their brand, it is that they all feel they belong to a small family. As they say on their website; their working conditions “are completely fair and decent. We ensure they are motivated at work, happy, and love our vintage style”.