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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
“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?
“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.”
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