The Art of Freestyling
From professional freestyle footballer to designer & business owner, Nayib shares his inspiring journey in creating 28th Store
The fact we are on opposite sides of the world doesn’t seem to deter Nayib de la Rosa’s contagious energy, as I catch up with him over a Zoom call following his joining The Nopo with his leather goods brand 28th Store. After two minutes of a screen chat with him it’s clear Nayib is firmly on his way to bringing his brand and creations from being the new kid on the block to an international design powerhouse, celebrating Mexican craftsmanship and elevating it to a worldwide stage.
“A proud college drop-out” as he defines himself, Nayib was born in Acapulco, northern Mexico, in a family of artists and entertainers. With a DJ for a father and a dancer for a mother, his childhood and teenage years were a whirlwind of people, nightclubs, music, and his mother’s wonderful and exuberant wardrobe. “My parents were often quite busy, so I tended to stick to myself a lot as I was growing up. It was the early 90s, Madonna was exploding, metal and rock were happening, that edgy time in design, in life itself, between the 80s and the 90s would become a pivotal influence for my work and aesthetics later on.”
His parents’ glamorous life exerted a strong fascination on young Nayib, who, even while growing up, never let go of an almost childlike creative hunch to play around with things that already exist to create new realities and objects. The designer’s eye was already at work from an early age, but, after a short time at college studying Communication Sciences, Nayib’s family ran into financial difficulties and he felt compelled to be responsible for himself.
A few years before, a Nike advert featuring a freestyle soccer player had legitimized his passion for the sport, which he had been practicing for a couple of years. “Seeing that advert made me realize this could actually be a job, it wasn’t just something to do with friends for fun. I had started practicing at 16 with a friend and soon we began traveling a lot in Mexico and internationally to attend tournaments and gatherings.”
As the go-to sport for generations of young kids, soccer has played an important role in Latin America over the decades. “Everyone’s childhood dream was to be a soccer player when I was growing up,” Nayib remembers with a smile. In freestyle soccer, Nayib found a way to express that childhood dream in his own independent and original way. The practice of freestyling gave him the opportunity to break the fixed rules of a sport that already existed, to create something new and different, a way of reconfiguring reality that he found inspirational. It was this very concept of creation and re-creation that he brought into his design work ten years later when he decided to start his own brand of leather accessories.
28th Store, named after Nayib’s age when he decided to put his head down to realize this long-term dream of his, was born out of necessity when, traveling around for tournaments, Nayib noticed he didn’t have a way of carrying his ball that would be practical and stylish at the same time. “I really wanted a backpack that would fit my ball not only functionally but also beautifully, I wanted the backpack to showcase the ball and in that sense become part of my identity.” Inspired by freestyling soccer and improvisation as a means of creation, and fuelled by his strong imagination, Nayib was able to conceptualize and sketch what would become his first product, La Liga Backpack.
After a leather apprenticeship in San Cristobal, Chiapas, Nayib found his ideal partners in a local family of artisans with a multi-generational tradition of leatherwork, and La Liga Backpack became a beautiful reality, having undergone a seamless journey from imagination, to the sketchbook, to real life. Ever since, a host of other accessories followed, ranging from handbags, duffle bags, and totes to laptop sleeves and passport holders. “Reality as we know it is not an unchangeable monolith, there’s always room to improve, change, reinterpret, and re-appropriate, and design is a part of that,” Nayib explains. “If I can translate my feelings into an idea, then a craftsman can take that and turn it into something slightly different and better, then I think we are contributing to shaping the Universe itself.”
From its somewhat accidental beginnings, 28th Store is now growing to become part of a worldwide movement of sustainable and ethical fashion design, which aims at shaking the industry to its core. “So often the fashion industry has segregated designers from other backgrounds to the margins, preferring to expose those in its upper echelons, but things are changing. Mexico City is fast becoming one of the most prolific places for contemporary local design, and 28th Store is definitely part of this inspirational shift.”
As big lovers of uncovering local raw talent, we were delighted to welcome Nayib and his team to The Nopo. Besides the beautiful designs and exquisite craftsmanship, 28th Store is also working hard to level the playing field when it comes to business practices. Everyone involved in the project - from the founder to the craftsmen - is a business partner, and profits are equally shared amongst all. Designs for new products are often co-imagined between designers and makers, in a virtuous circle that preserves historical crafts, sustains local communities, and helps publicize Mexican excellence abroad.
Today, Nayib is focused solely on 28th Store and sees freestyle soccer as a beautiful chapter that served as a stepping stone for his work and business. “Success can be interpreted and deconstructed in many ways,” he closes wisely. “In Mexico, we’re still focussed on what I call “American Syndrome,” putting your efforts into making money to get all the latest gadgets. But to me and everyone involved in 28th Store, success is working on something that gets you up in the morning and inspires you to be better every day.”
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