I first met retailer-designer Angel Rodriguez ten years ago when he opened his style boutique – Sai One – on Elmwood Avenue. Angel had come to Buffalo, from NYC, with his business partner Norman, to test out the Buffalo market. While Norman remained based in NYC, Angel began to hone his skills in the apparel industry in Buffalo, starting off with quirky, offbeat handbags and furniture. Over the years, he has developed his tastes and clothing design aesthetics into a refined, yet fashion forward look of his own, that he continues to roll out to this day.
This morning I finally caught up with Angel, after trying to track him down for days. Angel just got back from NYC on a fabric buying trip, where he was scoping out clothing designs that will be featured in his new Market Arcade boutique. Angel recently closed his store on Elmwood Avenue, after ten years on the street, in order to pursue business in Downtown Buffalo. When I saw that he had closed his shop, I immediately felt that this city lost a real talent and personality. Fortunately, the winds of change blew Angel into a completely new part of town, where he is determined to make his mark.
“Elmwood is sandals and frappé,” Angel thought aloud. “And a lot of browsers. I feel that the people who are shopping at the Market Arcade are looking to buy. We might not have the foot traffic yet, but we have people who want to buy. There are a lot of professionals down here who see my storefront and say, ‘I want that dress in the window’. I first heard about the Market Arcade two years ago, and with the help of Novi (Sasmita) I finally made my way here. I opened just a few days ago, but I’m already selling. My vision has always been to have a little shop that one might see in SoHo… I believe that I have finally got that here in the Market Arcade.”
Angel is a huge asset to Buffalo fashion scene. The man has gone from flying by the seat of his pants, to a fashion pro with attitude and edgy design sense, and the skills to back it up. “I was homeless before my business partner gave me a shot at this business,” Angel confided in me. “He has pushed me all along. A couple of years ago he told me that he would buy the fabric, if I began to make dresses. Now I’m making my own designs, with the fabric that I choose. My designer name is OMI, which means water in Yoruba (Nigeria). I have been initiated as High Priest there – water and fire… I stuck with the water part of the designation. I am a very spiritual person, and my spirituality transcends the clothing.”
As I talked to Angel, my wife tried on one of his new dresses, which she ended up buying. “My aesthetic is a powerful woman who takes charge of her life, with a lot of edge… she can rock that dress with leggings on a yacht, or with bare feet on the beach, depending on the clutch and the jewelry of course.”
“My mom passed away three years ago,” reflected Angel. “Every time that I dreamed of her, my collection came to me. After years in the business, I finally started designing with a lot of love five years ago. I do it for the love of it, which is why the designs sell.”
Along with rockin’ dresses, Angel sells some kick ass sunglasses at rock bottom prices. He also sells jewelry and a number of other clothing lines (other than his own designs) for guys and gals. “Sai One [pronounced ‘say one’] is slang Jamaican for ‘unique looks’,” said Angel. “My partner’s grandmother used to say, ‘you look sai one…’ – I believe that everyone should look unique. That’s why I carry so many one-of-a-kind items.”
Along with unique threads (hip men’s shirts) and accessories (pocket books, bow ties, etc.), Angel also prides himself on attention to detail. In his world, service is key. Angel doesn’t tell you what you want to hear… rather he will tell you what he honestly thinks. That’s because he wants everyone to walk out of his store as a billboard for his brand. Now that’s simply refreshing. Downtown Buffalo could really use a guy like this, to help lead the way to a fashionable and promising future.
Sai One | OMI Clothing | Market Arcade Building | 617 Main Street | Buffalo NY | 7168-730-2685