In planning its properties, real estate developer Edens Retail chooses its tenants with intention. Most importantly, the developer seeks out retail tenants who align with its community-centered mission. In Denver, Edens has rolled out a mentorship program, pairing a bigger retailer with a more local one, to foster conversation, help the local retailer grow and find success, ultimately making the community around them a better place.
One of these partnerships is between two tenants in Edens’ Five Points property: Patagonia and False Ego. The major outdoor apparel retailer and the local sustainable streetwear line have been in partnership for close to a year and both groups have plenty to learn from one another. With sustainability at the core of both brands, the pairing made perfect sense – but it’s the genuine friendship that has blossomed that makes this partnership a lasting one.
“We keep it organic and connect retailers we think will learn from one another. Then, we take a step back and let that relationship grow. The ultimate goal is for our retail partners to grow their business or make a bigger impact on the community. Each company has different needs, so the mentorship goals look different retailer to retailer,” said Managing Director for Edens Retail, Tom Kiler.
An Organic Partnership
When False Ego opened on Walnut Street in September 2020, founder and CEO Jevon Taylor met Christa Nenaber, the Patagonia store manager, and a fruitful partnership began to form. “As we got to know each other more, we found a lot of synergy in community development projects and of course the core values of our businesses align,” said Taylor.
The week the False Ego store opened, Taylor and his partner Benhur visited the Patagonia store and introduced themselves to Nenaber. “From there, our partnership and friendship grew,” Nenabar elaborated. “We started by having bi-weekly meetings to talk about leadership, customer experience, retail, the community and just got to know each other as people.”
According to Taylor, working with Patagonia has been “nothing but inspiration. Patagonia has definitely set a high bar for any apparel company pushing sustainable initiatives.” Beyond Patagonia’s sustainable products, Taylor pointed out that the Denver store creates avenues for education for its community, which is what False Ego aims to achieve as well.
Coincidentally, Nenaber said the same about False Ego. “They are much more than just a clothing brand,” she explained. “They are deeply committed to making an impact in the community, to educating others, and to making thoughtful decisions which will affect climate change. They live their values and encourage and empower others to do the same!”
To help Taylor continue to build False Ego and allowing him to draw on the insights of a bigger business, Taylor and Nenaber speak at least once a week to discuss strategy, next steps, business plans and more. This has led to not only a partnership between the two, but exposure to other business leaders within a large company like Patagonia, which Taylor is grateful for. “I’ve been blessed to build a great relationship with Christa and as a result, have had the pleasure to build connections with her team as well as a couple of lead directors of the broader Patagonia staff,” said Taylor.
False Ego has had the opportunity to connect with some of Patagonia’s sustainability directors to get advice on becoming a B-Corp. Becoming a certified B-Corp means that a brand “meets the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency and legal accountability to balance purpose and profit,” according to the B-Corp website. Achieving this certification is a priority for Taylor, and getting this advice from an already-certified group is “another way [the relationship] has elevated our business strategy,” he said.
It’s refreshing to hear that the match-up between Patagonia and False Ego is less of a partnership and more of a relationship. “We are like the creative little cousin that gets to learn from an already established platform and connect with them on progressive activities in the community,” said Taylor. “When we first moved in on the same block as Patagonia, we knew we would connect and it’s been everything we wanted and more. We’re extremely excited about future initiatives we’ll collaborate on here in Denver and hopefully beyond,” he said.
The long-term goals for both brands are similar, and summarized by Taylor: “The real impact is creating more conscious consumers and citizens of our planet.” Patagonia and False Ego have a synergistic connection, because their core values are similar. According to Nenaber, False Ego is definitely walking the walk. “They make it a point to be actively involved in the community and everyone who is a part of False Ego is involved with so much more than just the brand. They volunteer, they collaborate with nonprofits and the city to make changes, and they work to make changes in industries beyond retail,” she said.
False Ego has also teamed up with UCapture as part of its customer empowerment program. The program allows False Ego customers to support carbon neutral initiatives (like reforestation, methane recapture, wind turbines and more) domestically and abroad, with every purchase. “We decided to work with them to make the impact through purchasing more tangible, as far as the location where the impact is made,” said Taylor.
When thinking about what’s next for the partnership, questions about an apparel collaboration were bound to come up. Unfortunately, this is not in the works (at least for now). “We are mainly focused on building relationships within the Patagonia organization and figuring out ways to creatively make an impact within our communities. I’m sure the merchandise collab will come together organically through the broader initiatives we collaborate on going forward,” explained Taylor.
If one thing is apparent, it’s that this is a relationship with longevity and that the benefits are mutual. According to Taylor, the most important thing he’s learned from his relationship with Nenaber and Patagonia, is “how to more effectively communicate our mission, values and goals as well as learning how to expand our impact beyond our products, getting involved with powerful initiatives in our community.”
“I have learned sometimes you just go for it! If you are passionate about something or have a big idea, one should go for it. I am inspired with how Jevon Taylor had an idea to create False Ego, to create a company for good and made it happen!” Nenaber explained.
Looking back on Edens’s goals for these partnerships, it’s safe to say that the relationship between Patagonia and False Ego is a successful one – and one that can drive change. “The best part about our connection with Patagonia is the amount of knowledge and resources that have passed along,” Taylor said. “Knowledge and resources are priceless, especially with False Ego being such a young company. Both brands think big and have been able to diversify our impact along the way, so, it’s cool being able to work with a large organization working towards the same mission as you.”
Going forward, Edens will continue to partner its properties’ tenants together, to better the communities around them. “Our aim is for our retail partners to reflect the communities they serve. Five Points is a historically Black neighborhood that has served as a commercial hub for multiple Black businesses for decades. While the neighborhood’s demographics have shifted, we are committed to supporting and continuing this legacy. More than 50% of our retail partners are women- and BIPOC-owned businesses and we intend to keep it that way,” said Kiler.
Edens hopes that partnerships like the one between False Ego and Patagonia help to enrich the local community. “We believe that by taking care of the community, business owners will become more connected and better able to identify ways to continue pushing and evolving their business operations to better serve their consumers,” Kiler elaborated. In that same vein, Patagonia and False Ego genuinely feel it’s their duty to uplift the communities around them – and the community are rewarded with the benefits of their work.