It’s 4:30 p.m., the day before the grand opening of the Seven80’s flagship store at the Premium Outlet Collection Mall, and Ador Cochingco isn’t wearing any shoes.
“I grew up in the Philippines,” he tells me, recounting a childhood spent playing barefoot before moving to Canada as a teen and eventually opening the local apparel store. He adds that he’s more comfortable this way, and as the flecks of orange nail polish dotting his toes would suggest, comfort is one of his top priorities.
Leading me through the floor of the yet-to-be-opened storefront, Cochingco dodges busy sales associates while pointing out displays of local artisan brands (“You have to be from the 7-8-0 area code to be in here,” he says) and Oilers-themed apparel cooked up on a whim (my personal favourite crosses out the words “Send Nudes” and replaces them with the far less intrusive request to “Send Nuuge” instead). Cochingco stops in front of a tower of underwear mannequins and motions toward a pair of boxer briefs featuring images of ribeye steaks, each of the steaks wearing either a front-knotted bandana or a sideways crown.
“This is called ‘Rap Beef,’” he laughs while standing next to the Biggie vs. Tupac-themed underwear, which happen to be among the Seven80’s most popular items. The waistband on the boxer briefs reads “Alberta beef,” which, unsurprisingly, is also the name of the best-selling underwear collection.
“My brain is full of stupid stuff,” Cochingco adds, punctuating the remark by pointing to another design in the Alberta Beef collection, an assortment of rutting cows that he has playfully dubbed ‘Cowmo Sutra.’ “It was a stupid drunken idea that we were like, OK, it will probably sell. So we only did it in like black, red and yellow. And then we sold out in two weeks.”
Whether you call it a stroke of genius or a happy accident, that brand of mischievous improvisation has come to be the Seven80’s calling card ever since Cochingco opened the first store location in 2006. The apparel store has since grown to four locations across Edmonton, that expansion largely built off the strength of a dynamic social media presence, irreverent designs and a fierce hometown loyalty.
“This city is amazing,” Cochingco says. “It’s just cold here, that’s all. We’ve got the most amazing biking and running trails, our food scene is amazing, people are still kind here and people here are very accepting. You go to bigger cities and everybody is in their cluster and everyone looks the same in their cluster. Here, you’ve got anybody hanging out with everybody.”
And after 15 years of unabashedly representing Edmonton, Cochingco is betting on the city returning the love at the Seven80’s latest location.
“[Our store is] right across from Sunglass Hut, Jack & Jones, Under Armour. We’re playing with the big boys here,” he says. “We want to show consumers that these are local people designing and producing these things, and we’re going up against anybody. We’re just as good.”