Growing up, my style was always at odd’s with my Mother’s. She would wear long skirts, long hair in braids, and always decorated with beaded jewelry. Her style reflected her indigenous heritage and artistic creativity, but this was completely opposite to the conservative, homogenized “soccer-mom” style I was accustomed to. I would beg her to change, to conform, to simplify, but she never complied. She would use her style to show the world exactly who she was.
I didn’t know it then, but she was setting the foundation for how I would later use my own style to reflect my identity and culture. She was also my biggest influence in my transition into a Sustainable, Ethical and Conscious Fashionista. She was bringing canvas bags into grocery stores, pushing for plastic free lifestyles and looking for natural fibers in clothing long before it became trendy.
One day during a visit home, I was laying on her bed and chatting in her room. I had been on the hunt for a denim jacket, and was telling her of my struggle. None of my go-to sustainable brands had anything I liked, and it was proving near impossible to find one at a second-hand store that fit my petite frame. Suddenly, her eyes widened and she excitedly began searching through her closet.
After a bit of digging, my mother handed me a jacket she had kept for over 40 years. Now, in all of my 26 years, I had never seen this piece of clothing, but it was love at first sight. Not only did this perfectly fitting denim jacket have a great, dark wash, it also had some very special detailing. On the front was an original “Boycott Lettuce” button from the United Farms Workers Movement, and on the back was a beautiful face of woman with a feather crown, hand-embroidered by my Mother.
As my mother handed me this piece of art, she explained that she made in during the radical activist environment of the 1970’s. She had moved from Brazil to Berkeley, CA to work on her Master’s degree and fight for indigenous rights. During this time, my mother was involved with the American Indian Movement and wrote for a magazine called Indigena. I like to picture her wearing this very jacket to protests and demonstrations, as she fought for the rights, representation and preservation of indigenous culture.
This jacket has become one of my favorite pieces, a staple in my wardrobe. It’s timeless style ensures that it will always be on trend. But beyond that is the knowledge that I carry my mother – her love and spirit – with me whenever I wear it. Not only does it reflect her artistic creativity, but also her strength and resiliency, which she has also passed onto me. Every time I wear it, people always stop me to comment on it’s beauty and uniqueness, and I beam with pride when I say it was my mother who made it.
I hope to keep this piece with me forever, to care for it with great love, and to one day pass it down to my own daughter. I will tell her stories of my mother, and clothe her in love and pride, to instill in her the same values my mother instilled in me. This is more than just a piece of clothing, it is now an heirloom, a piece of our family history. When we love our clothing, it can last generations and tell stories, and this is what I hope to pass down to you.
Con Mucho Amor,
Jacket: Levi Jean Co. Embroidered by my mother
Necklace: Ahuichol Necklace – gifted to me by my mother
Clutch: Mexico En La Piel
Photography: Stephanie Rosa
Location: Plaza De La Raza – Boyle Heights, CA