Fashion is a reflection of our culture. What we choose to wear allows us to non-verbally communicate what we value and believe. Among different age groups and nationalities, people use clothing as a way to identify with a tribe and feel a part of a community. Today, it is no secret that young consumers are driving a dramatic shift in prevailing cultural attitudes. With their demands for radical transparency and push for companies to be outspoken about their political views, Millennials and Generation Zers believe that one’s personal style should reflect his desire to enact positive social change.
However, fashion brands thrive off exclusivity and (perceived) scarcity, especially in the every-so-trending streetwear community. Kindness and a brand’s “cool” factor, never seem to truly align. Until now. Both first-generation Americans, Daniel Buezo and Weleh Dennis founded their LA-based clothing line Kids of Immigrants to bring inclusivity into the fashion industry.
The founders’ mission is to show us that we are all connected and that, to believe in ourselves, we have to believe in others (and vice versa). Kids of Immigrants’ clothes strive to spark joy and positivity in those who wear them. With their designs, Buezo and Dennis do not aim to influence their followers to conform to a uniform aesthetic. Rather, they want us to appreciate our idiosyncrasies – that individual flair – and encourage us to find our unique personal styles. The founders say:
“With clothes, we try to connect people with themselves and take pride in who they are, where they’re from and the struggles that have, and how they can make [these struggles into] a more of a positive learning [experience], noticing the negative, and then really appreciate the positive, knowing that [you’re] doing the best you can with what you have.”
Focusing on creativity allows us to explore who we really are and to find our authentic selves. Instead of lusting over what others have and what we believe that we lack, Buezo and Dennis use their platform to enable us to find peace within ourselves and be proud of our unique journies.
Raised in Sacramento, California, Dennis explains how growing up as a basketball player has shaped his world view. He says: “being able to go in and out of different cultures – staying in the area where I grew up and then traveling to a more suburban area and then going to a higher-end area – all of those different things allowed me to connect with people. I saw what connects and relates us all, but I didn’t understand what separates us all.” Dennis continues:
”I was trying to find a string that us all, and for me, I think that that’s clothing.”
This interest led Dennis to pursue a degree at San Francisco’s Academy of Art, where he majored in fashion design. Prior to launching Kids of Immigrants, he worked brands such as Zara, Louis Vuitton, and Diesel. With his technical know-how, Dennis’ design experience married perfectly with Buezo’s background in social and community impact.
Originally from Brooklyn, NY, Buezo reflects on how growing up in an inner city shaped his early life perceptions. He explains the prevailing mentality in his community: “[T]hey [believed that]we weren’t able to get out. We didn’t think we could get out [because] we didn’t know any better.” However, Buezo clearly knew and was craving something more out of life. He went onto university and majored in social work. While he, went onto be a stylist, working with the likes of Kehlani and Opening Ceremony, and did not go onto pursuing a profession in the social work field, this experience has profoundly shaped his world view and career. This adoption of a growth mindset is at the crux of Kids of Immigrants’ brand message. Buezo explains: “This is really something important [to me] and will always sit in my heart. I always wondered how I can help the youth and kids end up liking themselves.”
For the founders, Kids of Immigrants is not a clothing line, but rather a line of clothes that signify membership to a community – of unconditional acceptance, support and love, that is. Through contextualizing their pasts and understanding how negativity holds people back – whether that be due to their ethnicity, age, economic, or immigration status – Buezo and Dennis are committed to empowering and actively bettering the lives of the world’s youth. For the duo, creating a strong, positive environment for this rising generation is of primary importance. They want to show young people how, through creativity and authentic self-expression, anything is possible.
As a kid, Dennis explains how his definition of America and its fashion were not widely represented in the media and the greater industry landscape. While his mom didn’t have a lot of money to spend on new clothes at the time, Dennis recalls that “I did a lot of window shopping and drawing.” To this day, the co-founder loves cartoons and anime for their storytelling elements and connection to the youth. Always believing that creativity was at the heart of community and giving back, Dennis explains the gap that Kids of Immigrants fills within the greater fashion market. He explains that the America that he saw in his everyday life, full of diversity and inclusivity, was not the same America that he saw projected in the media which gave off a “Great Gatsby, Polo vibe.”
When he met Buezo, Dennis explains how “everything clicked.” Finally, he found another first-generation American in the creative space, who saw his country and its fashion in the same way that he and his friends did. This filled Dennis with confidence, excitement, and a relentless ambition to spread this message of positivity, love, and limitless potential with kids all around the country. As successful entrepreneurs that came from immigrant family, low-income, and minority backgrounds, Buezo and Dennis strive to instill a sense of hope and serve as living examples for all kids who might believe that the odds of happiness and success are less in their favor. Kids of Immigrants exists to dismantle these pessimistic beliefs through empowering designs, community engagement, and positive energy.
Since the brand’s founding in 2016, Buezo and Dennis have partnered with many non-profits in LA – including My Friends’ House Foundation and Border Angels. Additionally, the duo recently spoke with UCLA students and works to give young children access to art programs, allowing them to find and unleash their own creative voices and truth. Kids of Immigrants works closely with both Inner City Art and artworkLA.
In the social media age, our world’s youth have so much information at their fingertips at all hours of the day. While the duo believes that social media is a great way for us all to connect, they emphasize the importance of mindful digital consumption: “There a lot of high-quality and low-quality information out there.”
Regarding how they present Kid of Immigrants on social media, they continue: “We’re not just doing something like ‘hey, we’re a cool clothing line and we make cool designers.” Attuned to our modern media environment and with their brand boasting 73K followers on Instagram, Buezo and Dennis stress the importance of offering substance beyond the surface level. The founders say:
“Of course, we are a clothing line, but we also understand what’s going on and important in the world today. We want to use our platform to build a sense of community and empower the people [who are wearing our clothes. Fashion is known to be very exclusive and divides us in a lot of ways, especially when it comes to feeling cool. To feel cool, you feel like you have to have [certain] cool shit or that you just have to have something that no one else has.”
Defying this industry ideal, the driving force behind of the streetwear and “drop culture” phenomenon, Buezo and Dennis created Kids of Immigrants with the mission to let go of our preconceived notions of style and trends to “make love the coolest shit.” Instead of cultivating a sense of belonging through clothing, the brand strives to leverage clothing to build a community from a place of mutual compassion. Fashion should not dictate our value, rather, we should spread our values through our fashion choices.
“The youth is amazing. They know so much – but lack they the experience that we have as adults, so I think that it’s on us to create waves and help [cultivate] this sense of community among the youth. It’s our job to push back against the negativity in the world, like the terrible things that we hear about on the news and bring the youth together from a place of wisdom [and positivity].”
Dennis further elaborates on this point: “Each kid has a different situation. I know that when I was growing up, I would always try to compare my situation to someone else’s, and I now know that that was not really good.” Knowing that this perception of the world is all too common among young people, Kids of Immigrants serves as a community that empower kids to love themselves for who they are and believe that social media can be a force for good, allowing us to more easily express our ideas and values with the world and join forces with like-minded people. Especially in our turbulent political climate, the founders remind us that “love is a political choice.”
Even in the toughest of times, hard work, determination, and a positive outlook are the only tools you need to get closer to reaching even your loftiest goals. To all of the kids – of immigrants or natural born citizens– always remember, as Buezo and Dennis articulately express, that in this current moment “we all are at the lowest point of our lives. From here, all that can we can do is grow.”
Kids of Immigrants was created to remind us that we are should be grateful for what we have. “We are all the main star of our own movie – our lives – and no matter the size of our social media following, economic, or ethnic background.” Every aspect of our lives shapes our unique narratives and these individually-forged paths make us who we are. Once kids can accept and embrace this fact, they say, “it’s all positivity from there.” Buezo’s and Dennis’ ultimate goal is to ensure that all young people feel heard. They emphasize that: “Normal is whatever you experience.”
Dedicated and hardworking, just listening to the founders’ voices makes it clear that the duo practices what they preach. To all of the young people out there, Buezo and Dennis leave us these last words of potentially game-changing advice: Never stop learning. “Work to learn, don’t work to make money. If you’re learning, you’ll always be able to make money. It’s important to learn what you don’t like, so you go towards your passion. Don’t let fear hold you back, don’t be afraid to try.”