South of Arden
South of Arden originated from a mezcla of obsessions of Latin culture, a curated fashionista vision, and a desire to transform the shopping experience. Co-owners (and best friends) Kelsey Otsuka and Merrilee Hale’s friendship originated while trekking around Ausangate mountain in southern Peru and dreaming of starting their own businesses. After college, they decided to venture to San Francisco together to explore different professions, the startup space and to challenge themselves in a new and creative environment!
While visiting Buenos Aires with her Mom four years ago, Kelsey discovered the first designer, Josefina Basso that launched South of Arden. Selling in a plaza on the weekends, Josefina’s “pop-up space” was a small table with about 40 pairs of shoes that she had handmade in that week. Kelsey bought the Josefina oxford bootie (that she later named after the designer) and literally wore it every day for a year, obsessing over the comfort, the wear, and the fact that it required no real care. After receiving endless compliments and not seeing anything else like that, this was the moment that Kelsey realized it was time to change her and Josefina’s life! So with the help of another college best friend, Paulina Santos Torres, the two sat in a café in San Francisco and started the partnership with Josefina.
In the first year, South dedicated all free time to attending craft fairs and weekend fairs to showcase the Josefina Basso collection and their store. Additionally, South rolled out an in-person shoe consultation via bike delivery within San Francisco. South customers have tried on (and purchased) shoes at their apartments, restaurants, parks, offices, and hair salons. South lives for the 1 on 1 time with customers introducing Josefina, the story of South, and can talk shoes and Argentinian leather for hours.
The mission of South of Arden is to sell handcrafted products from Latin designers for that conscious fashionista who values living simply with beauty and a meaningful appreciation for the things they put in their life. While the idea behind it is always how to evolve and transform the shopping experience, South also wants to explore how to make a soulful impact on the designer, their craft and community. In the next year or two, South will be implementing an Artisan Mentorship or Artisan Amigo Program. We're not doing a 1 for 1 or giving percentage of proceeds to X, but instead giving back to the new designers and helping them grow their business locally by providing constant guidance on everything: website, selling products, social media, etc. Stay tuned for the impact South of Arden will make with your fashion and soul!