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A New Fashion Collaboration Is Pushing for Positive Change at the U.S.-Mexico Border

Rachel Hahn
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A New Fashion Collaboration Is Pushing for Positive Change at the U.S.-Mexico Border

The Honduran-American artist’s latest project hits close to home.

Last fall, President Trump directed his endless ire at the migrant caravan making its way through Central America to the U.S.-Mexico border. About 10,000 migrants, almost all of them Hondurans, came together starting in San Pedro Sula, a city in the north of the Central American nation and made their way up the coast, following a similar path as the caravan that made its way to Tijuana just a few months before. In turn, President Trump threatened to shut down the border entirely as well as to reduce aid to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.

Those migrants made that long desert exodus for a number of reasons: some to apply for asylum in Mexico or in the U.S., some to escape violence, while others set off in hopes of finding greater opportunities elsewhere. It’s the latter that compelled the family of Los Angeles-based musician Empress Of (aka Lorely Rodriguez) to relocate to southern California in the mid-90s, just a few years before Rodriguez was born. Moreover, that personal history serves as a backdrop for Rodriguez’s latest project, too. Last month, the singer fronted the campaign for a new collaboration between L.A. streetwear label Kids of Immigrants, helmed by two first-generation Americans Daniel Buezo and Weleh Dennis, and human rights nonprofit Border Angels, which provides support, supplies, and pro-bono legal services to migrants and related communities along the border. The new clothing drop, which has its own Go Fund Me page, specifically aims to raise funds to build an additional wing at the Border Angels shelter in Tijuana.

Rodriguez first met designer Daniel Buezo, who is also of Honduran descent, through some mutual friends in Los Angeles. “I told one of my friends how hard it is to find other people in the arts from Honduras and she was like, ‘You have to meet Danny [Buezo]!,’” says Rodriguez. The two hit it off almost immediately. “Representation is a huge thing for me and to see myself in someone else, and seeing him pursue his ambitions with his clothing brand, I saw that reflected in myself,” she says. “Within minutes of meeting we were talking about the food we ate growing up. Even though I grew up on the West Coast and he grew up on the East Coast, we had a lot of similar experiences because of our culture.”

Photo: Melchizedek Chan

The result of the collaboration, which takes the form of a gray hoodie emblazoned with the words, “love has no borders,” originated in Buezo’s recent experience on-the-ground at the border itself. “He was telling me about his experience and seeing how those kids on the border have the same face as us and how it could have been us, and just wanting to use whatever tools he had to create change,” she says. “A lot of the brand is about spreading positivity and uplifting and empowering people. What I love about Danny’s message is that we’re not victims.”

The campaign images find Rodriguez pairing the casual hoodie with a ruffled, floor-length skirt, a combination that mirrors her tomboyish personal style while subtly paying tribute to her heritage. “The stylist, Debbie Gonzalez, was trying to find something that contained the volume of floral skirts from Honduras,” Rodriguez says of the choice to pair the sweatshirt with a skirt, which Gonzalez finished off with a pair of Margiela heels.

Rodriguez has always cited her mother as a major influence in her sense of style—she told Vogue last year that her Dickies and workwear-filled wardrobe is a reflection of her East Los Angeles upbringing and its large immigrant community—and it’s her mother’s history that influences her tireless creative approach as well. “My mother worked very, very hard. She raised four kids by herself and I feel very influenced by her work ethic. That’s something that she passed down to me in my own career—just seeing her always figuring out an answer, figuring out her own way to make it work.” This sense of respect runs both ways: “My mom knows I’m vocal about my own experiences as a first generation American and she’s supportive of it. I always wear my Kids of Immigrants hoodie out and she loves it.”

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