Fashion

Lower East Coast, a Staple for Street Apparel and Books, Moves to Little River

The exterior of Lower East Coast's new Little River store.
The exterior of Lower East Coast's new Little River store. Photo by Jesse Fraga
Lower East Coast, a beacon for independent bookmakers and fashion designers in Miami, is moving into a new home in Miami's Little River neighborhood.

What began as a music management company in 2010 and then morphed into a bookshop in 2017 has turned into a breeding ground for aspiring graphic artists across Florida's...well, Lower East Coast.

The shop moved from its longtime home in the Design District, chased out by local renovations and increasing rents. Co-owners Steven Sanz and Rees Escobar say it was for the best.

"At the end of the day, the Design District is a mall. It's expensive to just hang out in that neighborhood, but it's different here," Sanz says. "If anything, our core demographics will feel more comfortable now."

"We're here for the subcultures of these younger generations who just need a platform to take off," Escobar adds. "A lot of creatives outgrow this city or lack the access to create, but we're hoping to help keep some of that youth flourishing here."

The Design District space, which opened in 2017, measured about 600 square feet. The new Little River location triples that size. (The store hosted its grand opening on May 28.)

At the new store, the team plans to offer merchandise at lower price points, including limited-edition apparel collections inspired by the community's youth. Brands sold at Lower East Coast include Marni, Stray Rats, the Good Company, and Carhartt WIP.

"LEC is for the kid that wants to be in the world but doesn't know his place yet," Escobar explains. "I get that not everybody is into this, but at least this builds community and gives artists a place to start."

For Escobar, that sense of support was hard to come by growing up in Miami. Coming out as an artist initially invoked fear and doubt among his family.

"Culturally, we have that weird barrier of being a big minority-driven town where you got these conservative Latin parents that just don't want to understand a career in art," Escobar says.

He notes Little River's demographics, where Haitians, Cubans, and Puerto Ricans comprise the majority of its population.
click to enlarge Lower East Coast sells books, hats, and shirts made by local independent artists. - PHOTO BY GIOVANNI MOURIN
Lower East Coast sells books, hats, and shirts made by local independent artists.
Photo by Giovanni Mourin
Escobar also feels there is a sense of hesitancy among Miami designers when they first break into the scene.

"I've always said, 'Miami is like a 40-year-old virgin,'" he says jokingly. "It's such a major city, and it just lacks the community showing up."

Sanz, originally from New York, faced similar pressure in 2005 when he decided to skip college to pursue music.

"They didn't come to this country for us to skip the diploma. Back then, like pre-blog and pre-social media, [pursuing art] was a shot in the dark," Sanz says. "Now, all you need is a few clicks, and you've made it."

While the shop offers an e-commerce storefront, the physical boutique displays books and serves as a space for local brands to get their start — something Sanz sought as a teen.

"At age 14 or 15, I would go to Shoe Gallery, but it wasn't always to buy sneakers. It was always the curation of spaces and a certain feeling of community that brought me out," Sanz explains.

LEC's third partner and creative director Jonathan Rodriguez hopes to cultivate these connections through the shop's sophisticated industrial aesthetic.

"We tend to always use warehouse grays, metallics, and greens, similar to the hues you might see in factories or similar spaces," he elaborates. "It's important for us to constantly evolve and transform this into its own postmodern concept."

Whether collaborating with leading fashion brands or mentoring a novice, the trio hopes to bridge a gap between accessibility and creativity.

Lower East Coast previously partnered with larger fashion labels, but keeping it local is the ultimate goal.

"We've tapped into the higher-end stuff, like Dior and Stüssy, but I think that's where the lower-tier fashion was going anyway," Escobar says. "You don't need to be signed to a major label to make things happen."

Escobar sees the brand as more than just another streetwear shop.

"I always hated the term 'streetwear.' Back in the '90s, we would call it graphic tees," Escobar says. "It's not just a book and clothing shop — LEC is a lifestyle."

Lower East Coast. 7219 NW Second Ave., Miami; lowereastcoast.com. Wednesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sunday noon to 6 p.m.
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