BELIEF store has been operating since September 2011 and represents the world's leading brands in the premium lifestyle segment. The philosophy of the brands represented in BELIEF is to interact with subcultures such as music, art, skateboarding or motorcycles. Each item in the store carries this philosophy and is symbolic to those for whom it was created. BELIEF is the only official Russian retailer of many brands in its assortment, among which is ACRNM, NIKELAB ACG, NEIGHBORHOOD, WTAPS, NEXUSVII, SOPHNET and more.
Interview: Аlexander Zabelin [TECHUNTER].
Interviewee: Arsen Markaryan [BELIEF].
Photo: tokyo_dandy [TECHUNTER], BELIEF archive.

[The history of BELIEF began with a blog on Blogspot hosting, the first posts of which date back as much as 2005. Arsen, tell us the background of the store and how you did you come to the clothing passion?]

I was engaged in alpine trekking 10 years before the store foundation. There, when you are in the mountains, in harsh conditions, it comes to the realization that you need to dress properly and safely. You can never dress right from the start, it comes with experience. Also, I've seen enough of how nomads, Tibetans dress. The style is called "nomadic", and I immediately liked it. They have that colorful clothes and they can combine skirts with down jackets and scarves, and all this with jewelry. It made a strong impressions on me and left its mark. I thought that it was possible to look more interesting personally and, probably, my hobby for clothes started from this point. It was also the fact that I needed to learn clothing from its technical side to feel more comfortable in the mountains.
Later I saw the Serra model shoes by VISVIM. These are trekking boots, reengineered to suit urban conditions. I was interested in the approach of the designer who created them not instantly, not right away, but he went to the family in Switzerland, who have been creating these mountain boots for several generations. So, I, like an involved person who has spent most of the time in mountain hiking shoes, wanted to have a spare pair of more comfortable and embodying what I'm doing technologically advanced shoes. I looked at these city-mountain shoes, tried them on, I liked it. Shoes happened to be extremely expensive. I brought one pair to Moscow for myself, then another; some of my friends started to be interested in those. Then I met the VISVIM designer in Paris. We did not talk about clothes at all, we discussed only how nomads dress, their walking. I asked how all this can be made in Moscow and I was explained that if you haven't correct retail trajectory, if you have never had clothing business at all, it is unlikely that something will happen, and is especially hard to negotiate with such serious brands, which I interested in. However, it didn't stop me.
I went to Barcelona, where was a store called CHIKASHITSU ["Basement" – jp.] There all these brands were represented, as this store was a kind of small branch of the SlamJam empire. To start some more or less official storyline with the brands, I had to come up with a pop-up-store maneuver in Moscow. And I made this temporary store with the same name as the store in Barcelona. At that time, I barely knew Sergey, we met just when I was doing the preparation. We started to communicate, I realized that there were common themes for us and, in fact, it was the beginning of the history that has developed in the project, which we are now engaged in.
The most important thing is that if you don't not have some history of a relationship with clothing, with premium Japanese brands, it is very difficult to have a deal with anyone. So I had this problem. Pop-up store cannot last forever, for a month or two maximum. I was running out of stuff and bought a stock at Barcelona's CHIKASHITSU for a decent amount of money, about €20,000 at the time. Although, after I brought all these things to Moscow, the CHIKASHITSU owner announced the official sale. Not the most honest thing he did, but I'm still grateful for what we've done together. Further, the story of my relationship with brands began.
I came to Japan and met different people, sales managers. As a rule, these were not refusals, but veiled phrases, because the Japanese cannot say a "no" strictly. It was very unclear and blurry. By the time I've already been 3-4 times to Japan and in 2010 I had a trip planned. At that moment, an earthquake occurred [a massive earthquake of 9 magnitude and a tsunami, the waves of which reached 7 meters high in March, 2011 on the East coast of Japan. More than 20,000 people were injured.] I was to meet OriginalFake, NEIGHBORHOOD, WACKO MARIA and someone else. I wrote them a letters asking to cancel the meetings because I wanted to make these people feel more comfortable. Most of the brands responded positively, saying that it would be better to meet at another time. And some brands, in particular NEIGHBORHOOD, did not cancel the meeting. I came to Tokyo on March 13. As it was now, I remember tension in the air. People were leaving the city at the time. But I was inspired by my idea, and when I confirmed the meeting, from that moment, in fact, it all started. Neighborhood first gave me the hand and said that we could start from the next season.
Regarding the blog, there was a trick with it. In fact, I started blogging since 2008, but in order to strengthen its position on the Internet, I was putting the earlier date. I've been translating information from HYPEBEAST, HIGHSNOBIETY, HONEYEE. Blogspot allowed me to change the dates, and I was making the posts, a little falsifying on this topic. For example, there had been some things that I just learned about, and they were released a long time ago. Like VISVIM x UNDERCOVER [AFFA] collaboration, Serra boots model. I wanted to write about them in 2010, but they were of 2006-07 release. I did it to stay in the flow, and thus seems even more advanced and aware of it since 2005. In reality, the passion began in 2008, and the store was opened in 2011.
At first, I took the concept of the name very seriously, but, in fact, I had to relax completely. I have looked through a lot of literature, I skimmed some dictionaries, looking for words, making Excel tables, wrote words every day, looking for word combinations, remembered all of my lovely music bands and their albums. There were so many options. There was "DEAD MAN'S BONES" version. There were a lot of advices from the outside, but the original name appeared suddenly. "BELIEF" been buzzing around in my head for a while, and I was worried it was a noun, not a verb. Because the pronunciation is not always clear, is it "Believe" or "Belief". The idea with a tagine became from the guys of NEIGHBORHOOD. At first it was "AGE OF APOCALYPSE", but then "THE PLACE IN THE SUN". I liked how we had combined it and finally I made a decision.
It was hard to open the store in Moscow these days, – no money, no place. And even now, this problem exists, because it is either not conceptual or with unharmonious neighbors. There were many pitfalls, but I went on a simple way. I had an apartment in the property that I inherited from my parents and I mortgaged it. Everybody were discouraged and did not believe. But for myself, I decided that if I lost, I would eventually go to Nepal. I took a chance and we did it. I can't say that we've grown into some kind of super-commercial project. Until recently, we were making ends meet, and only since 2018 there has been growth on the horizon. We moved to a new place, where, in fact, we did not start very actively. Started bleakly, frankly. But apparently, you need to settle for a certain time for people to know about you. Before that, we have been underground for 5 years, then moved here and for many, as I understand, we have just appeared. We thought that we had moved, but in fact, most of people just found out about us. Now the story develops optimisticly in our opinion, but back then it was not really easy.
Thus, we have a 100% self-made-project. I mean, without any third-party assistance, without any investment, or professionals in the retail market, we brought it up what we have now. And we managed to embody it in words of gratitude of familiar people who come and say: "Guys, that is cool!", "Great! We love it!", "Awesome, that you are in Moscow!" So we are charged with energy of our own and from the outside, we are on fire and we move on.
Read the full interview in our new magazine issue, where the founders of the store Arsen Markaryan and Sergey Kub for the first time shared exclusive information about their work, the concept and the vision of the industry.