The question isn't what these seemingly disparate products have in common.
As a boy,
Along the way, he also embarked on a long-term collaboration with
He's also designed custom shoes for many celebrities, including
If it appears that there's little to no fanfare accompanying Esquivel's rise in the design ranks, it's simply a reflection of the low-key manner in which the designer conducts himself. He's painfully aware that his life could have turned out much differently, had he walked in his father's crime-streaked footsteps instead of choosing the path that he's on.
Thus, he is devoid of the self-importance and braggadocio that afflict some star designers. "To go from living in motels to here? C'mon," he said.
Instead, he's thrilled when he sees someone wearing his shoes, whether they're a famous person or not. Even with a year under his belt at
"In my own brand, I have a design assistant, but I'm mostly solo," Esquivel said. "At
What Esquivel has done at
"I love color," Esquivel said, grinning.
The bright leather pieces are used for the luggage tag, handle wrap, patch and zipper pull ties. They're not only a subtle way to add personality to a carry-on, they also make it easier to spot one's checked-in bag at the airport luggage carousel.
Esquivel also likes juxtaposing colors and textures. For example,
The Astor group features texture-coated heathered gray canvas trimmed with black Vachetta leather or a black-and-white spectator combo with retro-looking curved corners.
The walls of one work room in Esquivel's studio illustrate how the worlds meet in his realm: They're covered with fabric and leather swatches, inspiration photos, sketches of what's to come for both
Remember the bright zipper pull ties for
His current women's shoe collection includes a silver penny loafer with a similar cobalt blue leather tie in the coin slot. There's also an espresso mid-heeled lace-up shoe that's been painted with gold dots to resemble an oxford, a tongue-in-cheek tromp l'oeil. Both the bright leather tie and the painted effect are the designer's signatures.
It's been 20 years since Esquivel launched a small made-to-measure shoe business, and where he is now is that much more significant considering that he never studied design or fashion and grew up moving with his mother and siblings from one motel to another. Throughout his childhood, he lived under the shadow of a well-dressed father who dealt and did drugs, went to prison and alternated between leaving and returning to Esquivel's mother.
"I just wanted to get away," Esquivel said. He could not even fathom dreaming of what he wanted to do with his life. He escaped from reality with music and by going to clubs at night and wearing vintage shoes.
While driving a truck for a living and heading to
"Everyone wanted them," Esquivel said.
The idea of making shoes stayed with him so much so that he sought out a shoemaker for about a year. He learned the fundamentals from
"I fell in love with shoes," he said. "I fell in love with designing."
Bands and stores eventually discovered his custom footwear and his clientele grew to include No Doubt and Kings of Leon. But it was after he became a finalist for the
There's no shortage of glamour and globe-trotting in Esquivel's life. But he naturally gravitates toward the forces that keep him grounded: his respect for his humble beginnings, his love for what he does and the creativity that accompanies it, and his devotion to his family. "If I am at the shop, one day, I may box up shoes, another day, I may be vacuuming," he said. "I love getting my hands dirty. I'm not above that."
To find the art that would inspire his recent designs for Wear LACMA, Esquivel toured the museum's permanent collection galleries with
"Suddenly, we were on our last stop, in the Latin American galleries," Ross said. "As soon as he saw the painting (by
"He said, 'I really like this one.'"
"I said, 'I know this is the one for you.'"
That oil on canvas was "Indian Woman With Marigold," which depicted a woman gazing at a marigold in her right hand. The painting of a beautiful but unrecognizable woman had a native quality to it, Ross said. Esquivel, in turn, interpreted the essence of the art by choosing simple shapes, natural colors and a distressed finish for the sandal, and a warm hue and touchable finish for the suede boot. At last, he's enjoying the freedom to dream of doing something wonderfully creative -- and seeing it become a reality.
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