BY ALEEN ARSLANIAN
LOS ANGELES—This month, HEX’s Adventure Armenia collection launched in Downtown Los Angeles, where more than 30 attendees were excitedly waiting to purchase the collection’s bags. As they arrived, guests were offered champagne and beer, to enjoy along with a live performance by Armenian American music producer and composer, Bei Ru. HEX was filled with guests, huddled together, both admiring and purchasing the collection’s bags, which were displayed throughout the store.
A collaboration between Harry Kazazian, Founder and CEO of Exxel Outdoors, Serj Tankian, singer, songwriter, and activist, and Sako Shahinian, Creative Director at Exxel Outdoors, the collection is meant to simultaneously shed light on eco-tourism in Armenia and draw the Armenian Diaspora to their homeland. Each of the collection’s bags have the words “Հրամէ Հայաստան” (Welcome to Armenia) stitched onto them, calling for the Diaspora to visit their native country.
Following opening remarks made by Kazazian, Shahinian addressed guests, describing the project as an opportunity to use his “creative abilities to do something positive in Armenia.” A video presentation, detailing the collection and its purpose, followed. The video is available below.
HEX’s Adventure Armenia collection offers a variety of bags, including duffels, dopp kits, waist packs, day packs, and backpacks. The collection is heavily influenced by both Armenia and its culture, as the bags are covered in art that draw from traditional Armenian ways of life, including petroglyphs, tapestries, costumes, rugs, and churches. Individuals who purchase the collection’s bags are encouraged to use them while exploring different parts of Armenia – as the varieties available are most convenient for traveling – which HEX encourages through a partnership with Hike Armenia, a non-profit organization based in Armenia.
“I think what’s really interesting about this project is the focus on eco-tourism versus other types of developments. Working with a nonprofit like Hike Armenia, and having an attachment to Armenia one way or another, with whatever business you’re in,” noted Serj Tankian.
Hike Armenia, an organization dedicated to discovering, preserving, and maintaining Armenia’s hiking trails, will receive 10 percent of the collection’s proceeds. The organization will utilize the donated money for trail maintenance and operations, where they hope to make a lasting difference. Hike Armenia encourages individuals to hike through different parts of Armenia – including its villages – where they will have the opportunity to meet, and potentially stay with, families that live there. Those who choose to explore Armenia through Hike Armenia’s app will also have the chance to try the different types of wines, as well as the various foods made by Armenian villagers. With this project, HEX and Hike Armenia are creating a space for the Diaspora to learn about agrarian Armenia, while also getting to know the families that populate our homeland.
Harry Kazazian, who founded Exxel Outdoors out of his garage in the 1990s, described the project as an opportunity to give back to, and reconnect with, his birthplace. “The whole collection, the whole project, is about bringing awareness. One is obviously helping the country you love and are connected to; but, more than just going to restaurants or bars – which I’m not against. You have to see more of Armenia to connect with it,” said Kazazian. “Going to these villages really goes a long way to make sure the country is viable. It’s not all about one city – that doesn’t make a country. Exxel Outdoors has all the camping and outdoor brands, and Hike Armenia is exactly what we love. Eco-tourism is the number one industry in Armenia. I felt like letting more of the country share in its success is what it’s all about. Me being born in Armenia, this is me giving me 2 cents back. I hope that this project challenges more business owners to work with Armenia, to tell friends to tell friends,” he concluded.
Individuals interested in purchasing the collection’s bags may do so by visiting HEX, located at 939 S. Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90015, or by visiting the website.