Culture

This Fashion Designer Is Turning San Marcos Blankets Into Stunning Streetwear

There’s nothing like a family blanket, especially one with a story. Perhaps one your grandma quilted or an old wool blanket your father had when he was in the military. An heirloom blanket provides more than just physical warmth. It reminds us of the fabric of love and care we were born into. It reminds us of home. That’s why fashion designer Brenda Equihua is using the iconic San Marcos blankets to make stellar fashion pieces.

For Latinx people, the value of a San Marcos blanket goes even deeper than just warmth. 

CREDIT: Courtesy of Brenda Equihua

The significance of these thick, velvety cobijas is both familial and cultural. Even though they’ve only been around since the ’70s, they strike deep at the heart of who we are as Mexican Americans.

The blanket itself is more of a kitschy cultural keepsake. According to The Los Angeles Times, the San Marcos blanket was devised by Jesus Rivera Franco of Aguascalientes, Mexico. “His dream was to come up with [a blanket] that would last, that every Mexican would love,” Francisco Rivera told LA Times in 2012.

To say that Latinx people love San Marcos blankets is a huge understatement.

CREDIT: Courtesy of Brenda Equihua

For decades people have bought these blankets in Mexico, on the Tijuana border, and at swap meets across the country for one simple reason: they bring a special kind of comfort only an insider can understand. They’re camp in a way that, if you don’t know about it, you aren’t a member of our tribe.

While the glorified imagery on the blankets — lions, tigers, and, yes, Aztec Gods — brought some teens mortified shame, as time passed, and we matured, the San Marcos cobijas became poignant moments of reflection. These treasured blankets showed us that while we weren’t rich, our parents kept us safe, warm, and nestled in them.

Fashion designer Brenda Equihua wants to embody that very personal feeling that we feel from these cobijas and apply it to her designs.

CREDIT: Courtesy of Brenda Equihua

She has taken the San Marcos nostalgila and created a fashionable shield that epitomizes that Latino pride we hold dear to our hearts. She brilliantly created a fashion line so the new generation of Latinx could fashionably share their heritage every day of the year.

“I reflected on what defined my experiences,” Equihua tells mitu. “That exercise led me to question what a ‘classic’ meant to me. I thought about what imagery and iconic things I want to preserve and manifest into our future.”

Equihua — a SoCal native — thought to transform the beloved San Marcos blanket into badge of honor roughly six months ago.

CREDIT: Courtesy of Brenda Equihua

Now, our tangible childhood memory can be seen as everyday street wear — from hoodies to long coats, and even dresses. The San Marcos aesthetic is back and more vibrant than ever.  

“The cobija idea as a classic happened simultaneously with the idea of a classic as a silhouette,” Brenda says. “The hoodie was a starting place for silhouette because it’s a very democratic piece. It exists in every social class. The aim was to create something that everyone from every background and every social class could identify with.”

Brenda’s fashion company — fittingly named Equihua — launched two years ago, but she tells mitu that her San Marcos-inspired line feels like a “rebirth.”

CREDIT: Courtesy of Brenda Equihua

“The pieces are meant to be expressive, artistic, familiar, loving, and comfortable,” Brenda says. “It was something that had not been done before and a challenge I took very serious.”

But ultimately, with a concept so close to Latinx culture, would non-Latinos be into this fashion style?

CREDIT: Courtesy of Brenda Equihua

“I have a diverse group of people I hang with, so the non-Latinos think the concept and design is fire,” Brenda tells mitu. “For all my Latino fam and friends, it’s a bit more personal and holds more meaning. To them it feels like home, it’s calming and a bit like a mother’s love. In a Latino home the Cobija can be a bit of a neutral because it becomes a constant and familiar part of the interior. What I did was take it out of that environment and give it a new context. It’s definitely a conversational piece. There is some real excitement that also happens outside of that inner circle. I’ve had strangers come up to me from across a restaurant and ask, ‘is that what I think it is?’ as their eyes light up.”


READ: Juan Gabriel Is The Inspiration For This Honduran’s Latest Fashion Collection And It’s Magical

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In A World Where Everything Is Catered To White People, Selena Quintanilla Has Long Been The Splash Of Color My Latina Soul Needed

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In A World Where Everything Is Catered To White People, Selena Quintanilla Has Long Been The Splash Of Color My Latina Soul Needed

selenaspizzas/ Instagram

Long before shops the likes of Urban Outfitters and Forever 21 began to bank on her image to sell $54 shirts to non-Latinx hipsters, Selena Quintanilla-Pérez was an icon and legend for young Latinas living across the globe. Ask a Latina and no doubt she has some sort of connection the Tejano singer whether its coordinating sons to “Baila Esta Cumbia” with her primas or playing her VHS biopic on repeat until the tape ran thin. The queen of Latinx music will always be an influential personality in Latino culture in the United States. Her music and the tragic circumstances of her death made her a pop culture phenomenon that escaped the niche Hispanic market. After her death, Hollywood studios furiously vied for the rights to adapt her incredible rags-to-riches story to the big screen. Selena is a fundamental Latino icon even 23 years after her death in 1995, at the tender age of 23.

Next time someone asks you at a party why you tear up listening to the late great Selena, be sure to serve them with these facts:

1. She brought Tejano music to mainstream America and proved women are capable of anything.

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Before Selena Mexican-American music was considered an eccentricity and was definitely not played in non-Hispanic clubs and radio stations.  Speaking about the experience of being a Latinx signer, Selena once said “Tejano music was hard for us because I was a girl. My dad had a lot of problems while trying to set up shows for us or presentations because there are a lot of men who don’t think that women can get the attention of the public. But . . . wrong!” No doubt the Texas-born singer changed these harsh attitude during her life and after her untimely death.

2. She valued family

Selena might have gained worldwide notoriety in her own right, but long before she was just Selena she had a career as part of the Quintanilla family group Selena y Los Dinos, where her two older siblings also made pompas shake. Like the rest of us, familia was always important to Selena and she never forgot her origins and the role that her family had in her success. Speaking about the struggles she was grateful for enduring with her family, Selena said “We went through a hard time, and we had to turn to music as a means to putting food on the table. And we’ve been doing it ever since. No regrets either.”

3. She was proud of her heritage

Singing in Spanish when you’re not fluent can be a pretty challenging act in itself if you want to break into the mainstream, and Selena was unapologetic about her efforts to do so. “I feel very proud to be Mexican,” Selena once said in an interview about her culture. “I didn’t have the opportunity to learn Spanish when I was a girl, but . . . it’s never too late to get in touch with your roots.” Many singers and actors of Latino origin change their names for a more English-sounding or a more neutral one. But not our Selena. She didn’t look for a fancy name and good on her: Selena is such a powerful, defining name that shines on any billboard.

4. She knew that not all women are straight-sized and many have curves

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, they say, but it has long been dictated by mass media which has, in so many cases, severely distorted our perceptions of women’s bodies. Selena was proud of her curves. Eso mija, eres una fregona.  “I’m very real, very sincere, and honest, and that’s how I’ll always be,” the star once said in an interview. 

5. She had a unique style

Amidst the customary images and selling points of whitewashed media and the current political turmoils of today, it can be hard for a Latina to feel confident in her identity. Selena did so with aplomb. Her wardrobe choices were interesting and daring in equal measure, which is probably one of the reasons behind her success as a pop culture brand.  She was criticized by more conservative audiences for “revealing too much”. We say al carajo con sus juicios.  Still, the Tejano singer stayed strong her opinions about her self, saying once, “Always believe that the impossible is always possible.”

6. Because she showed that Latinas can be captains of their fate as well as the fiercest activists.

“What I don’t like are arrogant people. We’re all equal. I don’t like it when a person assumes to be better,” Quintanilla once stated in an interview.  Her posthumous campaign with cosmetics giant MAC demonstrated that Latino women in particular and women of color, in general, could and should carry campaigns. She was beautiful and the world needed to see that.

7. She was active in her community “All I need to do is try and do the best that I can do”

As a minority, solidarity is key for the Latino community in the United States, particularly today. Selena embodied community values and never forgot her fellow Mexican-Americans. Certainly an example we should all follow. She grew up in Texas, where migratory patterns and backwards thinking about race make various segments of the Hispanic population feel vulnerable. Power to the people!

8. She urged children to stay en la escuela (don’t drop out, escuincles!)

“Music is not a very stable business. You know it comes and it goes, and so does money. But your education stays with you for the rest of your life.” Selena knew how important education is for minorities in the United States, and that hard work and academic development are the only way for the community to strive. She constantly visited schools and urged young chamacos not to drop out. Respect.

9. Because she was an independent self-made woman “If you have a dream, don’t let anybody take it away”

She was young but life taught her that all you have is yourself. We can’t believe she was just 23 when she died. Truly wise beyond her years.

Read: Mariah Carey Got Real About Being Biracial And Her Words Will Undoubtedly Have Afro-Latinas Feeling So Seen

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Puerto Rican Model With Down Syndrome Stuns At New York Fashion Week

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Puerto Rican Model With Down Syndrome Stuns At New York Fashion Week

sofiajirau / Instagram

The world of fashion is notoriously a parade of homogeneity. While certain brands make valiant attempts to diversify the faces and designs that represent their lines, it’s true that there is a world of progress to be made. Which leads us to our praise and worship for Sofía Jirau.

Sofia Jirau is a 22-year-old Puerto Rican model with Down Syndrome.

She is, to say the least, a true jefa whose recent appearance on the runway at a New York Fashion Week show is undoubtedly a game-changer. While walking the runway this past week, the model lived out her dream of not only modeling in New York but also shaking up its fashion scene.

“When I was little, I looked myself in the mirror and said, ‘I’m going to be a model and a businesswoman,’” Jirau told People in a recent interview.

And just look at her now.

Jirau got her start back in 2019 when she signed with INprende, an agency that works to represent models and faces like Sofia. Since making her deal, Jirau has gone on to model for designers like Kelvin Giovannie and Marisa Santiago. 
“I was born for this and I want to show the world that I have everything a model needs to shine,” Jirau wrote in a post about her NYFW debut on Instagram.

Here’s to hoping for more of this!