I met Betty Penate last summer at the Amber Rose Slut Walk in Los Angeles. Betty is the Founder and CEO of Immigrant Apparel. Betty was there to showcase her clothing line and show support for the event dedicated to combating gender inequality, sexual injustice, and derogatory labeling. Betty’s participation in the Slut Walk is fitting since Immigrant Apparel is also taking a label that can carry negative connotations and is using it to empower and unify.
When I caught up with Betty to see how Immigrant Apparel is doing I was curious to know more about how the brand identity was formed. I learned that Betty was born in El Salvador and raised in New York City. For Betty, creating the brand was not just about her identity as an immigrant but also an homage to the flood of people who migrate from around the world.
She recalled her moment of inspiration, “I was up one night and it just kind of hit me like a freight train to come up with a clothing line that was not only a dedication to my family, but [also] a vast representation of all the people that I grew up around.” The brand design represents her sentiment, each letter in the logo has been formatted to create arrows signifying immigrants coming in from all different direction and the letter A in Immigrant has also been replaced with the outline of the United States. “I needed something strong, something that would catch your attention and with that map I think it does. It’s pretty bold.” So bold in fact that Betty’s clothing line has caught the attention of various celebrities. The likes of Gloria Estefan, Jason Derulo, Perez Hilton, RedMan, Bryshere “Yazz” Grey, and countless others can be seen sporting Immigrant Apparel swag in photographs on the company’s website.
Through social media Immigrant Apparel has been able to gain a strong following of people who identify and support Betty’s message. When asked what she might say to those who may not identify with her brand she made it clear “IA” exists for everyone. “It is for the vast majority of people. [Even if] you’re not necessarily a first or second generation [immigrant] we all come from somewhere. And not necessarily immigrants coming into the U.S. You can live in France, move to Germany, and be a French immigrant in Germany. So, it really speaks on a bigger level.”
Betty’s desire to change the negative stigma towards immigrants stems beyond her entrepreneurial endeavors. Recently, she stood with hundreds of others in downtown Midtown to protest the xenophobia represented in Republican front runner Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. “I created IA two years ago,” Betty says, “but fast forward to what’s going on with the elections. I think right now is a great time for Immigrant Apparel. It can be a clothing line that can bring people together.” Immigrant Apparel forces us to see a truth that is easy to dismiss, that we all have roots originating from somewhere else.
Betty is currently working on getting Immigrant Apparel into as many stores around the country as possible. She hopes to eventually open a flagship store in New York City. Until then, Immigrant Apparel is being sold exclusively online at immigrantapparel.com.
** Photos courtesy of Immigrant Apparel