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Meet Mauricio Zelada of Buy Back The Block in Rampart Village

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mauricio Zelada.

Mauricio, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I started Buy Back The Block in late October of 2017. One of my best friends was battling cancer at the time, and when he passed, I spiraled into a very dark space. From that place I believe, with his guidance, the brand was conceived. I wanted to honor his life and spirit, so I built the brand on a foundation of love for my friend, community, and people.

After a night of listening to Nipsey Hussle and reflecting on all the changes happening in my neighborhood and the neighborhoods I love— the name Buy Back The Block was born. At that moment I wanted to create art and clothing that represented the misrepresented. I took the street art and culture that was being erased from my community and highlighted the beauty and allure through the brand.

From there, after a blessing of $500 from my Unc(le), I designed a couple of looks, got them digitally printed, set up shop online, and officially launched January 2018. After that, I reached out to a few prominent Instagram accounts, sent merchandise to them, did a couple pop-ups in Boyle Heights, Mid City, and Downtown LA and my following began to grow.

Around spring of 2018, I began visualizing the first Buy Back The Block collection. I started designing around June and finished the 14 piece capsule collection in December 2018. I’m currently getting ready to launch the collection on the site and prepping for a pop-up collab with my photographer and curator.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The road has been anything but smooth, but I’m grateful for all that I’ve experienced throughout this journey. Everything the brand produces is funded from my pockets. I run all the marketing and do all the designing and production aside from the printing on tees; so it can be very challenging.

My brand is only a year old, so I’m expecting bumpier roads ahead; however, I’m prepared, ready, and excited for what’s coming. My faith is unlimited, and I believe anything can be accomplished when love and faith are at the front line of your being.

Please tell us about Buy Back The Block.
The idea and mission of Buy Back The Block is to empower by inspiring confidence. Every piece, whether it’s a cut and sew hoodie or a high-quality cotton tee, is made with an intention and energy to positively influence the individual wearing it. I design clothing to be worn with pride but most importantly to encourage confidence.

I believe positive self-esteem and confidence in the future; so anytime I create, I do it to motivate others to want to reach newer levels and live life at its highest potential. I do all graphic design, clothing design, patternmaking, cutting, sewing, funding, marketing, and branding so everything I do I make sure I’m doing it with confidence, unlimited faith, and with a bigger picture always in mind.

I would say my specialty though is graphic tees. I love creating images or sayings that I can put on a tee and wear proudly. My goal whenever I design something new is to put purpose and inspiration behind the work. I believe the best way I communicate that is through graphic design.

I’m most proud of the impact the brand has had thus far, and I’m excited to see it continue to grow. I feel immense joy when I see people’s reaction to the name of the brand. Its almost as if the name triggers a thought in their mind where they begin to visualize what life would be like if we owned our own blocks.

My desire to help others break from old, detrimental, habitual programming through design is what sets me apart from others. It’s all about sending a message and impacting the young and collective minds. It’s about empowering and motivating one block at a time.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
My favorite childhood memory was the summer of 2001. It was the summer before high school. All I did that summer was play baseball with my homeboys. Nothing but winning the city championship mattered. We would all hang out at each other’s home, eat out together, or hang out with our coach. It was pure bliss.

After that summer some of us stayed together, while others ventured off. Some of us studied books and sports, while others studied the streets. But these memories and feelings will always reside in my heart and remind me of what pure innocence feels like.

Contact Info:

  • Website:
  • Email:
  • Instagram: @buybacktheblock_

Image Credit:
Photographer: Francisco Benitez
Model: Charles “Tweet” Smith

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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