Rosa Rodriguez and BB Velez* started their art and apparel brand, the Malcriadas Collective, as a way to push back against their parents. They were both drawn to making art, but their folks pushed them toward what they viewed as more stable careers.
“Honestly,” Rodriguez says, “Malcriadas, our brand in itself, is a rebellion.”
Three years later, their work attracted the attention of Foot Locker, which has placed their apparel in locations around North Texas. Even though Malcriadas was a creative response to their strict upbringing, the style and influence still has a foothold in their Mexican American heritage.
It all started when the two met in the middle of a street during South By Southwest in Austin eight years ago. “We just became besties right way,” Rodriguez says. They bonded over their similar childhoods. Both grew up in first-generation Mexican American households, Rodriguez in Grand Prairie and Velez in Oak Cliff. Both faced a clash of cultures.
“It’s difficult coming from both places,” Rodriguez says. “We’re American, but we’re also Mexicans.”
Life here was different than their parents’ lives in Mexico, Velez says. Their parents were strict, and “they didn’t like it” when Velez and Rodriguez tried to fit in with their peers. Rodriguez says she went through an emo phase growing up; Velez jokes that she wasn’t allowed to. Both were often called “malcriadas,” or “spoiled brats.”
“We heard that so much growing up,” Rodriguez says, that they decided to embrace the moniker. When they launched their art collective in 2019, they named it Malcriadas Collective.
Initially, Malcriadas was supposed to be a way for Rodriguez and Velez to share and sell their art. Rodriguez was into photography and Velez creates mixed-media pieces. (She loves sculpting.) They were shy about putting their art out into the world, and this was a way to avoid putting their names or faces front and center. Also, the collective allowed them to organize art shows and other events—they recently held a Valentine’s dance—for themselves and other local artists.
The streetwear brand “kind of just happened,” Rodriguez says. They’ve always included streetwear, like tees, hats, and sweatshirts, in their product drops. At first, their designs were simple, often featuring just their logo. But over time, as their brand grew, their designs became more intricate—and more popular.
Velez and Rodriguez describe Malcriadas’ style as “very unisex” and “very fun.” They don’t take themselves too seriously, and they allow themselves to express what they’re feeling at that moment in time. One product drop could be emo, for example, while the next could be in a more Chicana style.
But, Velez says, many of their designs draw inspiration from their childhoods and their Mexican heritage and culture. Take their Tío hat currently for sale in Foot Locker. It looks like a hat style their uncles always wore. (Tío means “uncle” in Spanish.)
“It’s crazy,” Velez says, “because, yeah, we did rebel against our parents. But a lot of our inspiration comes from them.”
After it launched in 2019, Malcriadas’ popularity grew quickly. There are few women-owned streetwear brands in Dallas. Also, when they did launch apparel, they only did limited runs. They’d make 30 to 40 shirts, or just 10 or 11 in a more exclusive drop. And once that design sold out, they wouldn’t make more. People liked that they could get something no one else had, Rodriguez says.
Foot Locker first contacted them in March 2022. The sportswear chain had been partnering with local streetwear designers on collaborative collections across the country as part of their Home Grown platform. Melanie Robins, a marketplace merchant for Foot Locker, had heard about Malcriadas through this D Magazine article. She liked that the brand was women-owned, and created by women of color, Velez says, and decided to email them.
“Whenever we got it, we thought it was a scam,” Velez says, but they googled Robins’ name, and realized the opportunity was legit. And they were thrilled to be able sell their clothes in store. “Actually, Foot Locker was in our five-year plan,” Rodriguez says.
They worked with the Foot Locker team for months on their collection. While the process was “awesome,” they say, there was a huge learning curve.
“You don’t even know what you don’t even know,” says Rodriguez. The pair weren’t used to having to get approval from someone else for their designs. And the volume was larger than what they were used to producing. For the collection, they made the Tio hat, a hometown jersey, a sweatshirt, joggers, and two T-shirts, all ranging from $35 to $80. And they made 200 units—much more than their typical runs—of each item.
Rodriguez and Velez had learn how to make style numbers and individually tag all 1,200 or so items. They didn’t sleep for two days, Rodriguez says. “We literally took like little cat naps, like on the couch for 20 minutes.”
Their Home Grown collection launched in three North Texas Foot Lockers last November. You can still buy their items, the pair say, and they’re hoping to keep working with Foot Locker after this collection.
The whole process has been a dream, they say, and they’re happy they can show others that you don’t have to leave Dallas to become successful artists. “It is possible for a small brand like us to be in such a huge, big store,” Velez says.
And while their parents their parents weren’t familiar with Foot Locker, Velez says her mother got excited once she saw her daughter’s clothes on the racks. “As soon as she walked in, and she took photos that she posted on Facebook.”
As for the future, Rodriguez and Velez say they want to keep hosting art shows and supporting local artists. They’d love to curate a collection for one of the city’s larger institutions, like the Dallas Contemporary or the Dallas Museum of Art.
They’d also love to work with one of the city’s sport franchises, like the Texas Rangers or Dallas Stars, or especially the Dallas Cowboys. “That’s our ultimate dream right now,” Rodriguez says.
Also, “in the long run, owning our own store,” Velez says.
“But,” Rodriguez says, “mostly the Dallas Cowboy thing.”
*On first reference, we previously referred to Velez as Valez. This has been corrected.