You gotta have grit.
Years ago, Guillermo Bravo founder and creative director Luis Velez immigrated to Miami from Colombia with his family. That journey kickstarted a lifelong love for style, sustainability, and ~ most of all ~ sneakers. Get to know Luis a little better.
When did your sneaker obsession start? Long, long ago I was a misbehaving immigrant kid in Miami who got grounded for an entire summer. I didn’t read much at the time and the only other semi-interesting thing for me to do was play basketball. So that's what I did, and I learned quickly. I totally fell in love with the sport ~ for me, it was basketball 24/7.
I played so much that my sneakers didn’t last longer than six months. But since I grew up poor, every penny I saved went toward a nice pair of kicks.
What drew you to fashion design? I wasn’t the most confident kid growing up, but I found that creating my own unique style helped me feel more comfy in my skin. Realizing that I could put together an avant-garde look, something edgy, no matter what I spent was huge ~ you don't need deep pockets to feel good in what you're wearing. Places like the Goodwill have great stuff, and that's more sustainable, too ~ remixing things that are old and new in fresh ways, and using materials that aren't taking a toll on the planet.
It's funny, you hear about meeting people and making eye contact. Well, I make shoe contact ~ I'm always looking at people's feet!
And knowing that I was wearing the same things as my heroes ~ Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson ~ gave me a feeling of connection and power, a sense that I could dream big and achieve. All of this, unknowingly, is what got me into design, and especially fashion. It's funny, you hear about meeting people and making eye contact. Well, I make shoe contact ~ I'm always looking at people's feet!
How did Guillermo Bravo start? I went to school for creative writing and music ~ never in a million years did I think I’d be putting together my own sneaker and apparel brand! I was just happy waiting tables and digging into the piano.
But about three years ago I was at a friend's house talking about sneakers. He mentioned that we should go to lunch and talk more ~ he explained that maybe this would be a good project for me to take on, and that if it all went well he and some friends might be interested in investing.
I did all the research possible, put together a proposal. The project died three times before they said yes. I sold all my fancy instruments and started hacking the conventional ideas of putting together a brand. It's been a long road, I haven't gotten enough sleep, but here it is. I can't wait to share it with the world.
The moral of the story:
You gotta have grit.