This year at Fashion Week San Diego each night of shows were categorized by different themes, including “SoCal Style”, “Gentlemen and Ladies”, and “Avante Garde Evening Wear”. Presenting his collection on “Gentlemen and Ladies” night, designer J.L. Rocha used 100 year old techniques to create an exceptional line of menswear that included shoes, jackets, and belts. Rocha’s belief in using only the best when it comes to his leather goods radiated in his FWSD 2014 collection. His collection was classic and timeless with stunning details influenced from his Mexican heritage. 

METRO LIVING ZINE NEWS IMAGE CREDIT: Eartha Hubbell, photographer
METRO LIVING ZINE NEWS IMAGE CREDIT: Eartha Hubbell, photographer

Eartha Hubbell: We’ll start with a fairly simple question, when did you start designing and how did you go about pursuing your design career?

JLR: I started at the age of 18 while attending the school for design in Leon, Mexico and also taking a course at the Ars Sutoria in Milan.

EH: What were your inspirations for the collection you showed at San Diego Fashion week, 2014?

JLR: My inspiration was the colors and textures of Mexico. I created a collection thinking of both ends of the spectrum, resort and evening. My resort collection of drivers and loafers are cool and colorful, while my dress collection is elegant and classic. My jackets compliment both.

METRO LIVING ZINE NEWS IMAGE CREDIT: Eartha Hubbell, photographer

EH: How do you select the materials you work with in your collections?

JLR: I am very particular and set on the best, all my products are handmade and no corners are cut. All our shoes are made of calfskin, are fully leather lined and all the soles are cowhide. Our jackets are made with grade A lambskin for a soft and smoky feel.

EH: Working in the fashion industry can be very demanding and intense at some points, what motives you and drives your work ethic?

JLR: My heritage is what drives me. I grew up learning from my grandfather that “all a man has is his word” so honesty, loyalty, and hard work are virtues we hold in high regard within my family and that is also what I passed on to my sons.

EH: As a local San Diego designer, how do you find the San Diego fashion market to be unique from say, Los Angeles or New York?

JLR: That is a good question, since Southern California is much more relaxed and unpretentious then most other large cities, the needs are unique. I created my resort collection with this in mind, thinking about what San Diego men will wear in La Jolla for an elegant dinner or in Pacific Beach to the ocean.

EH: J.L. Rocha has an amazing charity campaign, Give a Shoe. Tell me more about this charity and what inspired you to start it. 

JLR: My country, Mexico, has a large very poor population; still, there are almost no homeless people there since families always take care of their own. In the United States that changes, mental illness, dysfunctional families, and the pursuit of wealth leaves a lot of men without a home and without their sense of pride. I take that personally, that is why we created Give a Shoe, so all men can help and be helped, “Men Helping Men”.

EH: For our final question is there anything special you would like our readers to know, either about your FWSD collection, plans you have for the future, or even words of wisdom for inspiring fashion designers?

JLR: I want people to know that we all have our own style and it’s okay to make your own unique decisions when it comes to style. Brands should be options not “mandatory” must haves to be “cool and happening”. There is no better thing then to be your best self.
We are also excited for the future of the brand and we hope to be in department stores in the next couple of years and to open 3 or 4 of our own boutiques.
And finally, I will invite my fellow designers to keep “fighting the good fight”. It is a hard, long way to make our dreams happen but in the end it will all be worth it because without a dream we are nothing.