How Kids of Immigrants Designer Daniel Buezo Is Using Streetwear to Help Migrants at the U.S.-Mexico Border
This interview is part of The Beautiful Ones, a series that talks to people who are creating space for social good in fashion, through activism, philanthropy, and innovation.
As a new caravan of migrants from Honduras makes its way to the U.S.-Mexico border, following the 7,000-strong caravan that arrived late last year, the city of Tijuana finds itself as a temporary home for the thousands of people waiting to seek asylum in America. But it is not the home the migrants imagined. Living conditions are dangerous and overcrowded, and some Hondurans have faced resistance from the Tijuana residents who want them out of their city.
When Daniel Buezo, designer and co-founder of streetwear brand Kids of Immigrants, heard of the real crisis at the border—not one of drugs and violence seeping into the U.S. with the caravan, but the humanitarian crisis afflicting families with young children—he knew he wanted to use his platform to provide support. He is a first-generation Honduran-American fashion designer; his mother once made the same journey into the United States. Buezo got in touch with Border Angels, which provides shelter, resources, and protection for migrants on both sides of the border, and designed a limited-edition sweater in collaboration with the nonprofit.
One hundred percent of sales of the sweatshirt will be donated to Border Angels. The campaign, which features singer Empress Of, includes a sweater that will be available for purchase on the website at midnight tonight, following a benefit event in L.A. “Being an activist is not this boring thing,” Buezo said. “It’s something that can be celebrated. We can be happy while helping others.” Below, I talked to Buezo about the Border Angels drop, creating change through fashion, and why the youth have all the power to hold fashion companies responsible for their actions.
Amirah Mercer: What motivated you to get involved with the crisis at the border?
Daniel Buezo: We’re not a charity company, we’re a clothing line, but we represent empowerment, love, and creativity. We’re constantly engaging with our community—and not just immigrants. But the caravan was something that really hit home for me because I am Honduraño. I didn’t want to hop on an issue or current event. It was more like, this is my family out there.
Amirah: Before designing the sweater, you went to Tijuana in December to volunteer with Border Angels. What was that experience like?
Daniel: It was an unforgettable day, overwhelming. Thirty of us went. The first shelter had 500 people and the second shelter had 2,000 people, all located in Tijuana right across the border from San Diego. We filled up the van with a bunch of leftover clothes that we got from our friends. Then we bought more clothes, pampers, stuff for kids. When we got there, [we realized] a sweater means so much. I literally gave away the sweater I had on because we ran out of stuff, and there were still people in need.
Amirah: What was the most surprising part about that trip?
Daniel: In addition to giving stuff away, just having a simple conversation with people was enormous to them. They traveled thousands of miles from Honduras to the border with nothing on their backs besides faith that they’re going to be okay. Sometimes they just needed [our] energy; sometimes they just needed to know that somebody cared for them. And for myself, coming in there and feeling hopeless, because I hadn’t brought enough to help everyone, but then talking to them and hearing how hopeful they were made me more optimistic. I’m like, if they have faith, I need to have faith, too.
Amirah: Do you still have family in Honduras?
Daniel: Yeah, I have a lot of family. It’s not an easy place to live in—the crime, the dangers of government, cartel, the gangs. You have to pay to live in Honduras, and you’re not paying taxes, you’re paying the neighborhood. These people are not fleeing this beautiful paradise. It’s either, ‘I die here or I try to create a better future for myself and my family.’ And United States is the place. It’s the land of opportunity.
Amirah: How did the collection come about after visiting the border?
Daniel: We wanted to use our platform of fashion, pop culture, and music to shed light on what Border Angels was doing. They’re really the heroes. They’re really our role models. One of our key things is to spread love and their mottos is, Love Has No Borders. So we found love being that thing that connected us. We wanted to make the sweater colorful and beautiful, [reflecting] that these are really strong people, really faithful people, really hopeful people, so we don’t want to make this a sad story but an empowering story.
Amirah: Each of Kids of Immigrants’ collections is usually tied to some kind of social activism. Why is it important for your brand to give back?
Daniel: I listen to Stevie Wonder, Bob Marley, Marvin Gaye—all these people who are really using their art to make the world a better place, to bring change with their gift, and that’s what I see with us. Making clothes is amazing and fashion is awesome. But I feel like it’s our responsibility to use our gifts to create change.
Amirah: You drop a new collection every month. Why have you decided not to follow a typical fashion calendar?
Daniel: Being a streetwear brand, production can be done really quickly. We navigate with real time. It’s relevant to what’s going on today. We are the future of fashion.
Amirah: What do you mean when you say “future of fashion”?
Daniel: We live in a world with so much information, and the future of fashion is going to have some type of social awareness. We’re going to have to represent something. Fashion, just like any other art, is going to help create the change that we need, and I feel like that’s what Kids of Immigrants is. We’re more than just clothing. Heritage brands like Ralph Lauren—that’s not it anymore. Nobody plays polo. I grew up wearing Polo all my life, but when I look at the brand, it has nothing to do with who I am or who any of my friends were. That’s why streetwear is so big because it’s representing what the culture is at the [current] time. You can buy any brand in the world, but with the amount of information that kids have at 12, 15 years old, they know more about brands than we ever did growing up. I think social awareness is really important to the future of fashion.
Amirah: On the business side, you are a fashion brand, but then you are activists, and I'm sure that costs money. A lot of younger brands have been outspoken about how they don't make any money off of their clothes because they're putting so much into it, like Pyer Moss initially and Vaquera. Are you having that same experience?
Daniel: We’ve been told before, ‘You guys should take care of yourself first before trying to take care of everybody else.’ But our brand is our community, and if we have no community, we have no brand. The time will come, with the right investor that will be able to take us to that next step to be a profitable business. But if we have no people, then we have no community, then we have no brand. A lot of these brands didn’t start that way, so it's okay when they’re like, ‘Hey, we’re going to focus on the fashion calendar and the business.’ But for Kids of Immigrants, we started with the people, and that's our core. Community is equally important as the production and business side of things. And that’s what I mean when I say we are the future. What we’re doing, there’s no path that we’re following. I don’t feel like this is something that’s been done before. But it’s something that we strongly believe in.