Hey, You’re Cool! Kids Of Immigrants
"We want to be the access point to be able to make yourself be better."
Daniel Buezo and Weleh Dennis are keenly aware of their environment; from the saturated colors in their neighborhoods to the people they’re surrounded by on a daily basis. They’ve channeled their subcultures into one clothing brand that threads together the various fabrics that make up this country. Launched a little over a year ago, Kids of Immigrants aims to empower the new generation of youth in the United States. From the work ethic their parents taught them to the resourcefulness they learned, Daniel and Weleh are radically moving the lens of the fashion world. With support from Kehlani, Lil Wayne, and Uzi Vert, KOI sends a message to those who feel marginalized and puts them at the forefront of the conversation. We caught up with the founders and talked about how they’re empowering individuals from every background and using fashion as their platform.
Where are you both right now?
Eating the best Peruvian fried rice in town here in mid-city L.A. at a restaurant called Pollo a la Brasa.
Tell me about how Kids Of Immigrants was born.
As of last January, we started working together and lived in mid-city Koreatown in Los Angeles. That area has a large immigrant population, from the small businesses to the people that lived in our building. Everything that we saw every day felt like home. It felt like something that related to us. My [Daniel] parents are from Honduras, so when we saw these people, we could relate to their stories. We have this thing that we say, that we always want to do our best and our best can always vary. A lot of our early inspiration was what we could see throughout our environment. We would take walks around the neighborhood and see people which we would look at as being entrepreneurs, like these people selling tamales or orange juice or selling thrift pieces or anything, you know, these are real business owners. They might not own an actual location or storefront, but they’re still doing whatever it takes to run a business and that’s all inspiring.
What would you say is KOI’s mission?
Growing up, there was the idea that we weren’t able to engage in fashion because we couldn’t walk into a store like Gucci and feel accepted. So instead of having kids feel how I felt, we want to empower them. We see our parents and where they came from and how much they did for us. We get emails, direct messages, all these things from kids all over saying “you guys inspire me to learn about my roots, to be prideful about my roots and prideful about where I’m from” and that’s definitely a mission for us: to inspire these kids and celebrate people’s roots, you know? Immigrant can mean anybody in the world and we want to celebrate that. It’s a beautiful thing. Our goal is to be a big company and whatnot, and by being a big company I mean being able to provide jobs, teach people to take care of their intellectual wealth, their ideas, the type of things you don’t really learn in school. We want to be the access point to be able to make yourself be better.
What’s your creative process?
In terms of the design side of it, a lot of it is just dealt with tapping in and listening to people. We always go off the idea about there is a conversation that’s going on and we want to get into that conversation. A lot of the clothes send a message and it’s always something that we’re speaking up about. We really want to empower people and teach them how to become self-sufficient. Growing up, it kind of sucked not having mentors, so when we create we’re like, how do we give back to kids and to our families?
So would you say your line is sort of like a mentorship for kids?
Yeah, for sure. I think it’s along the lines about access to money and funding. We grew up without much, and you could become innovative, but kids need to be able to tangible examples. I think growing up to become a fashion designer or a stylist or a photographer, from where we’re from, it wasn’t a possibility. After going out and learning, we wanted to show them that it’s very much possible. It takes a lot of work, but if you love what you’re doing, in the long run it’ll pay off.
Why choose clothing as a platform to broadcast your message?
Clothes were always a thing for the both of us. We love fashion and we love brands, like your Gucci your Louis, but we always looked at it as so far fetched, as something that we couldn’t obtain. That was part of the reason we started KOI because we decided we’re going to do what we can with what we have and we’re going to be the best at it and continue to grow. So in a way, we use clothing to teach and educate or just show people that you have enough, you are self-sufficient, and you could take it to the next level with what you have right now. It’s the whole method of teaching them how to fish instead of giving them fish. It’s part of the reason we’re so transparent with our clothing line. We do our best to keep it real and send the message that hard work does pay off.
Do you think immigrant parents instill that kind of work ethic?
Yeah exactly, but we forget it. I’m like, “Yo, this person right here didn’t work hard for shit and they’re giving me orders at this job right now?” Then you’re like, “damn, do I have to be an asshole?” Especially with the whole Devil Wears Prada perspective, people are like, you gotta be an asshole to be in this game. And like I never understood that, I just really didn’t.
Would you say KOI is kind of a tribute to you parents?
Oh yeah for sure, they’re probably our biggest inspiration because it’s like the lifestyle they have given to us. It’s all though like a lot of hard work, risk, and just, you know, the struggle. And to still be able to look at them now, to see them smile, and to hear the stories of where they started at. It’s really inspiring to see how they pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and were empowered by the struggle.