In 2009, DVSN WEST opened on 3rd Avenue and Clayton Street as a lifestyle apparel and gear retailer.
“We opened at a time when another sneaker boutique that was in Denver called The 400 closed up. We realized there was a gap in the boutique space in what footwear brands look for (in locations they consider selling their product in.) We just opened at the right time.”
Parra started screen printing custom T-shirts for the store, and eventually came on full time as buyer and manager, shifting the focus to premium sneakers and a short list of high-style brands that complement the streetwear aesthetic.
Even though the economy was on the downturn, Parra helped secure a few hard-to-find brands and built DVSN WEST’s reputation from there.
“We’re just a brick and mortar business, we don’t do online sales or anything. It’s very much supported by Denver and the base we’ve built.”
From recognizable international brands like Nike to lesser-knowns like Karhu, a brand out of Finland that’s only carried by a few boutiques in the U.S., Parra helps DVSN WEST stay visible. He does this by cultivating relationships with designers, requiring him to fly off to Los Angeles and Las Vegas several times per year to attend tradeshows, meet with design teams and check out the latest looks to hit the market.
“There is a bit of footwork finding and contacting the right person for some of these brands that may not be at these tradeshows. It’s a lot of searching online and seeing what kind of brands have a following on social media. I’m also considering the customer we’ve built up and if it would fit with what we do here already, maybe add a little something more.”
The Mile High City may be more well-known for its mountain gear than its streetwear, but Parra sees that as more of an opportunity than a challenge. Early next year, he plans to launch a Japanese brand at DVSN WEST and is excited to see how local tastemakers respond.
“Denver, being kind of in the middle of the mountains and not really known as being fashion-forward as New York or LA, it’s going to be interesting to see how our customers receive it. It’s cool to experiment with that.”
But DVSN WEST isn’t just for the cool kids, Parra says. He’s thrilled whenever he can educate fashion newcomers about a brand or style.
“I feel like the store is pretty approachable. Sometimes it’s people who are just getting into sneakers or apparel, or people who are paying attention to brands for the first time, they get kind of intimidated walking into this space because they feel like they have to know a lot of information beforehand, but we like being the educators. Maybe it’s pointing someone in a direction they’re not thinking of, or pulling off a style they hadn’t see themselves in.”
Being located in Cherry Creek North puts DVSN WEST in great company, while also allowing the brand to stand out.
“There’s pretty unique retail, along with other things like restaurants and a lot of independent businesses. I think it’s what draws us to stay in Cherry Creek North, that kind of hometown feel. Even before we moved in, there’s always been unique places to shop and discover.”
Parra says people stopping in DVSN WEST for the first time are often surprised by the quality offerings at a more affordable price point, with men’s fashion neighbors like Andrisen Morton and Lawrence Covell allowing shoppers to “dive into both worlds” of a more formal, suited-up look contrasted with his store’s more casual style.
Footwear and style have intrigued Parra since elementary school. Around fifth grade, he started caring what shoes he’d be getting for the new school year.
“I’ve always paid attention to color and design in general, because I have an art background in painting and graphic design. Definitely attention to detail and how things are presented or put together has helped me in this capacity and with the direction of the store and how we present and curate.”
All of DVSN WEST’s new releases are promoted through social media—primarily Instagram—which Parra uses to build a buzz around the latest launch and engage with followers. Building those direct personal relationships is key to building trust in the brands DVSN WEST gets behind, Parra says.
“That kind of helps people make the decision as to whether to visit your space or not. Social media is pretty important these days… To have ‘customer service is No. 1’ as a company ethos is so important.”
Though his screen-printing days are mostly behind him, Parra still gets to flex his creative muscles with designing shop apparel, like his hat, which includes the custom DVSN WEST logo that draws inspiration from the former Denver Bears minor league baseball team. He’s currently working on expanding DVSN WEST’s branded merchandise offering with more hats, T-shirts and hoodies in the pipeline.
With every meticulously crafted Instagram post, precisely styled photograph and potential new brand partnership, Parra says he is always pushing the more unique aspect of what DVSN WEST is and could become.
“We always have an eye out for the next thing to continue evolving DVSN WEST. I think that’s what keeps me going, too.”
257 Fillmore Street
Denver, CO 80206