Ever since coming to New York City in 1999 at the tender age of 11, I have been trying to sort out where exactly I belong. While I have never lost my essence, language, and culture, for a long period of time I was embarrassed of my accent, my upbringing – at times even denying being Latin American.
For some that perhaps is a surprising thing to understand and fully process, considering I tend to be the most vocal about my heritage, name, and country of birth. I make sure everyone I meet knows where I’m from, but it wasn’t always that way. Nearly two decades later, I can look back at all the things I’ve learned, both about myself and the world around me, and smile. Smile because it all now begins to click, and make sense.
RAÍCES was born from many influences.
First, from my love for fashion as a means to make a statement without saying a word.
Secondly, the appreciation I have for some of the places I find the most comfort and joy in.
Last but not least, each piece represents who I am, and depicts a time or a feeling in my life.
la colección/ the collection
‘99 Bomber, Green (2018)
Pictured in Seba Seba, Jackson Heights
Seba Seba is my favorite place to grab a cup of coffee and traditional Colombian breakfast. While I mostly visit for the buñuelos and empanadas to take with me to-go, this place never fails to puts a smile on my face when I sit down for a meal. The staff is friendly, and the music is always loud – which to me is part of what gives it that special vibe that helps so many of us stay hours upon hours there talking to our friends and family.
Inmigrante desde 1999, translates to “Immigrant since 1999."
Painted on a Green Bomber, which has to be one of my favorite jackets, and the most I’ve worn since 2014. Half inspired by Kanye West’s Yeezus Tour Bomber jacket design (shout to 2013/ 14 Kanye), and half inspired by Ricardo Seco’s 'Juntos' campaign - it is an ode to all Latin American Immigrants, no matter which country they came from.
A simple, but important reminder that we are all one family united by a language. An unmistakable message.
Latinoamérica, “Leather” (2018)
82nd Street Train Station, Jackson Heights
It should come as no surprise that my beloved 7-Train makes an appearance in this project. Way before I even knew how to put together a sentence in English, the 7-Train was one of the first things I got acquainted with. It used to be that old-school, rusty, red, no-airconditioning-having, borderline-ugly train that came to my neighborhood. It was memorably charming in it's own strange way.
For thousands of us, it represented home - it represented work. A daily reminder that we came here pursue the “American” dream. A daily reminder to re-establish our goals, better ourselves, our future, and the future of generations to come.
There is something beautiful about each person’s story on that train. This piece is the a celebration of all Latin American people in New York City, the immigrants, the daughters/ sons of immigrants, and anyone who has any blood tracing back to our beautiful continent.
Globally, the term “America/n” is used to refer to anyone and everyone living in the United States. However, this a term that neglects those of us who know and understand that America is much bigger than one country. It is a a word that unites millions of people under a single language in colorful cultural a mosaic – a mosaic that often times gets no recognition Stateside.
The map represents all the stories of our ancestors, indigenous people, and the perseverance of those who took the ultimate leap of faith searching for a better tomorrow.
Roots Vest (2015)
Delicias Manabitas, Long Island City
This is the place I always go to when I miss the food and vibe that I grew up in back home. While it isn’t the fanciest, 5-star, bougie, overpriced restaurant crawling with hipsters looking for an “authentic” dish for them to post on Instagram - It certainly has become my absolute favorite Ecuadorian spot in NYC. Thanks to its simplicity, and ridiculously close-to-home taste that puts anyone in a time machine. Sending us back to the good old days in Ecuador upon first taste - I love it here.
This design, to me, is a call to action for anyone who ever gets lost in the sauce of the day-to-day life in the city. A large majority of us always puts our best efforts forward to become better and better each day both in our personal professional lives. While we work on ourselves, we tend to lose sight of what brought us here in the first place. Oftentimes neglecting our very own language, families, and culture in the process. The message is simple, as always, but it triggers and pulls at those sometimes forgotten strings. Our roots make us who we are, and we must never forget that.
Tour Military (2018)
Pictured in Addictive Boutique Winery, Jackson Heights
AB Winery has proved to be a much needed breath of fresh air to Jackson Heights. Over the last few years It has changed the way many of us think about purchasing a bottle of wine. Going from picking up a random one at the liquor store, to really understanding the origin of a bottle before taking it home. Thanks to their free wine tastings, friendly ownership, and incredibly knowledgeable staff – oh, and their endless selection of wines from all corners of the world, it is now my go-to spot.
The Mujeres Tour piece is a play on Kanye West’s Yeezus Tour art from 2013. Ever since Mujeres kicked off in the summer of 2016, I had started to think about the many locations visited over the years for shoots. In many ways, the project has already felt a little bit like a tour. Working with so many wonderfully talented women has taught me a lot, and in many ways each and every one of these incredible women is like their own city. You can learn a lot from hearing someone’s stories, about their upbringing, their work, talent, and their goals for the future. Like all cities, keeping the past in their minds, but always looking ahead and building, and creating something new always.
‘99 Denim (2015)
Pictured in Yankee Stadium, Bronx
Yankee Stadium is historically known primarily for one thing: baseball. However since the Spring of 2015, it has been the home of New York City Football Club (NYCFC), New York City’s very first ever professional soccer team to call one of the five boroughs home. This is one of the few places in the city where I can close my eyes, and almost feel like I am in a time machine back to the mid 90's in Ecuador, more specifically Emelec's George Capwell Stadium where I first ever saw a live fútbol match as a kid. The drums, the crowd, the chants, the smell of beer and popcorn – things synonymous with a true fútbol match experience.
NYC Since ‘99: Self-Explanatory.
While on first sight this design feels very similar to the "Inmigrante desde 1999" piece, this jacket carries a different kind of message. The United States Flag has long symbolized very contrasting things for me: On one hand, it represents oppression, and globally is often used as symbol hatred and racism. On the other hand for many of us, it represents struggle, sacrifice, growth, and progress. All the things my family, and millions of others families had to go through in order to not only adjust to life here, but to succeed and never give up in the process.
Very conflicting feelings – for sure.
On the right sleeve, the Ecuador and Guayaquil (my city of birth) flags are a reminder that I take my heritage, and all the stories that come with those flags, with me everywhere. The left sleeve is home to a small heart I hand stitched with red thread. I’ve always been told I wear my heart on my sleeve, so this acts as a subtle touch of sensitivity and emotion behind all the powerful intensity in my mind.
This is perhaps the busiest piece I have created, because it carries the most stories behind each and every one of it parts.
Perhaps I am, too Gringo for the Ecuadorians, and too Ecuadorian for the Gringos.
Part of me feels like I sometimes live in no man’s land.
But I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Why Swati Kapur?
Because she's the future.
Swati, a first generation Indian-American photographer and model born and raised in Queens, brings a unique energy and love to everything that she creates. From the moment we met and exchanged stories and ideas, I felt an immediate need to create something designed specifically to both embrace and celebrate this wonderful woman with this collaboration. Raíces might be a project about my experiences, style, memories, and emotions –but it is more about the woman behind this narrative. I may have planted the idea, but she is the one that's helped Raíces grow, and blossom so beautifully. She is the water that's given this project life.
A multicultural woman who understands the importance of her heritage, language, flag – and all that she represents– is unstoppable.
This is a woman who truly embodies and represents diversity.
She is Raíces.