These days, you’re most likely to come across a cobija—a traditional, acrylic Mexican blanket—draped over a couch or folded at the bottom of a bed. The heirloom textiles, once used for warmth, are now a popular decor item, especially in Latin-American households. And now, thanks to independent designer, Brenda Equihua, they’re entering a third phase of life: At her namesake label, Equihua has been sewing cobijas into jackets—and demand for the garments is so high, she can hardly keep up.
The jackets, like the blankets, are hard to miss: They’re largely decorated in loud, exaggerated prints and rich tones (think: tiger heads and flowers in electric hues). And according to Equihua, that maximalist aesthetic is a central part of the textile tradition—which she hopes to maintain in all her designs. In fact, the notion of passed-down tradition is a central inspiration for her work. “When I was growing up in Santa Barbara, my parents were both immigrants and my mother hadn’t gone to school—so most of the lessons she taught me were infused with folklore,” she says. “Culturally, that’s how stories or pieces of information have always been passed down—and that sense of mysticism, and heritage, and history is a big part of my work.”
Of course, navigating luxury fashion spaces can be a tough battle for any independent designer. But having cut her teeth working under a series of big-name designers in L.A., Equihua says she fell in love with the way high-end fashion was made. “I really liked the rituals of making beautiful clothes—and I grew up with a lot of rituals,” she says. “That’s what I love about luxury.” And because she’s all about slow, low-count fashion, every Equihua jacket is made by hand, making the signature jackets that much more exclusive.
With that in mind, on this episode of VICE’s Local Legends, we partnered with Acura—the auto company committed to opening up our definitions of luxury—to spotlight Equihua and her work. Watch the video, above, to hear the designer-on-the-rise chat history, competition, family, and fashion.