We See You, Kids of Immigrants
Kids of Immigrants, or KOI, was founded in 2016 by Daniel Buezo and Weleh Dennis, who are both first generation Americans with a strong sense of their cultures. Daniel, who’s family is from Honduras, and Weleh, who is from Liberia, recall stories of their parents immigrating to the states and making a life for themselves, back at square one.
Weleh’s father was an artist and architect in Liberia who moved to the states during the Civil War and lost his job after having to transition into using a computer for his work. Daniel’s father is a construction worker who learned everything he knew in America, even starting his career sweeping floors for $5/hour. The theme: Making something out of nothing. Or as the boys would say, “making the best of what we have.”
This is the theme that started it all.
Coming from companies like Louis Vuitton and Opening Ceremony, the men understood the feeling of intimidation walking into a store and not feeling like you belong.
They also understand the feeling of the ‘grass is greener’ mentality and try to use this as motivation in their own designs.
“How do we acknowledge things that are around us that are beautiful, instead of just aspiring to what’s on the other side of the gate?”
They wanted to create a brand for their community, but one that everyone could enjoy. They began by skimming through thrift stores and bringing pieces home to repurpose and redesign; to make their own.
How do they make them their own? They tell their story.
As kids of immigrants — they are proud. Every piece of clothing is designed with that thought in mind. Branded with statements such as “Anything is Possible’, ‘Kids of Immigrants, For the People’, and ‘Spread Love’, they design to empower and inspire.
With this message, the men also know the importance of community and giving back. They made it a point to take part in Small Business Saturday, by gifting pieces to local businesses and promoting for them. They have also worked with an organization on Skid Row in donating $3,500 for a local event. They see the needs of their community and understand the value of being a part of it.
The word that keeps coming back to me: Humble. These men have seen what it looks like to start over, to see your credentials disappear when you suddenly find yourself as a foreigner, to start again from nothing when you have a living to make, a family to provide for. They see this in their parents.
They also know what luxury looks like. They see the appeal and the comfort and understand the desire for this lifestyle. They see that in themselves.
What they set out to do is create a brand that makes a statement, but is attainable. One that empowers and reminds you of your roots; one that is prideful.
Kids of Immigrants is about love and acceptance and history and culture. They also represent the struggle and finding one’s identity. And I think that is something we can all relate to, no matter what country we come from.