FN is celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month. Observed from September 15 to October 15, the occasion recognizes the histories, cultures and contributions of Americans whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. FN invites you to follow along as we shine a light on Hispanic-American shoe designers and entrepreneurs making big waves in the fashion industry.
L.A.-based shoe brand Mia Becar has kept busy since launching just two years ago. The direct-to-consumer label made its debut at Milan Fashion Week last fall and held a successful pop-up shop in L.A. last December. The brand’s styles were also featured in fashion designer Bibhu Mohapatra’s runway show during New York Fashion Week in February, and have since been worn by big name celebrities like Lizzo and Hailey Bieber.
Creative director Betsy Gonzalez says she and co-designer Carolina Lujan (whose first names, along with those of Gonzalez’s two daughters, were combined to form the brand name “Mia Becar”) aim to create high-quality styles for women that are bold and timeless.
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The brand offers a range of staple looks with fashion-forward details, from buckled sneakers to bow-embellished heels and office-ready pumps featuring subtle hardware.
“Our customer is looking for a brand that keeps up and thinks about what she wants before she even contemplates it,” Gonzalez said. “We’re always trying to advance on innovation.”
To achieve this, Gonzalez and Lujan knew their creations required the finest craftsmanship. After attending Arsutoria design school in Milan in 2017, the duo visited numerous factories around Italy to find a place to produce their shoes. All styles are currently handmade in Vigevano, a region known for its expert artistry and attention to detail. (This, combined with the designers’ unique aesthetic, made their Bree Sock Knit sandal a finalist for the Accessory Council’s 2020 Design Excellence Awards.)
Both women also wanted the looks to retain elements of their shared Mexican heritage. Gonzalez, who migrated from Guadalajara to San Diego, Calif. with her family at the age of 5, recalls summers spent in her home country that sparked her love for shoemaking, and ultimately influenced her design style.
“One of my grandmother’s neighbors handcrafted shoes,” she said. “It was amazing to watch how he created something so beautiful from scratch. I always go back to those moments, as well as times spent in the local markets, when I make shoes.”
This is especially evident with the brand’s line of Salma sandals. Each style features flower embellishments handcrafted by Wixárica artisans from western-central Mexico. The ornaments are made of multi-colored chaquira beads often used in traditional Latin American crafts.
The designers also drew inspiration from famous Mexican actress, María Félix.
“She’s this strong, confident figure — the kind of woman we wanted to design for,” Gonzalez said.
What’s more, every style has a female name.
“I’ve been inspired by so many women along my journey,” she said. “I always think of their personalities, as well as how they balance busy lifestyles, in conceptualizing the designs.”
As a mom of two, Gonzalez knows how important comfortable shoes are for a woman who is often on the go. A majority of the brand’s styles are heels, however these do come in a range of heel heights — from 4-inch stilettos to 2-inch block heel styles. All are equipped with a cushioned footbed and made to require little to no break-in time.
Subtle doses of glamour throughout the line, such as crystals, pearls and metallic finishes, pay homage to the Golden Era of Hollywood (the brand even carries a mule called the Marilyn). Meanwhile, structural silhouettes and cutout details are nods to the architectural wonders Gonzalez and Lujan have encountered during their travels, including the opulent Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan.
Prices range between $525 and $895.
Like many luxury brands, Mia Becar felt the effects of the pandemic early on, resulting in declining sales and the label pausing its monthly drops. Gonzalez also noted that she and Lujan used that time to re-focus their design strategy, as the fashion industry as a whole was forced to shift production to appeal to a more comfort-driven consumer.
“It was important for us to understand what the needs of the woman we design for are right now, while still keeping true to our brand image,” said Gonzalez.
Mia Becar’s next releases, which are set to drop in November, will include flats and lower heel styles, Gonzalez said. The designer also shared that the brand is set to launch more sneakers and the label’s first-ever jelly slide sandals in December and January.
Despite some setbacks, Gonzalez is hopeful for the future. She remains committed to pursuing design excellence, avoiding overproduction (which she achieves by launching monthly capsule collections and staying in constant communication with the brand’s producers in Italy via Zoom) and giving back to the community.
Following the mission of the foundation she created with her husband, former New York Mets player Adrian Gonzalez, Betsy established the Mia Becar foundation this year. In collaboration with the California Community Foundation (CCF), the organization aims to support the education and well-being of women by donating supplies to young artists, offering scholarships for educational and vocation classes and partnering with other nonprofits that provide health and wellness services to women not covered by insurance. Between March 23 and April 20, the label donated all proceeds from sales to the Mia Becar Foundation to support the CCF’s COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund.
“As a brand, we have the power and platform to help others,” Gonzalez said. “Empowering women is a core part of our values at Mia Becar.”