He's teamed up with Zero Maria Cornejo, Timo Weiland, and Loden Dager for special shoe collections, and Barneys has just picked up his collaboration with designer Juan Carlos Obando, for Fall 2010. They're lace-up leather "sleeves" for the leg, which he describes as "reverse Daisy Dukes." And by that he means the sleeves cover everything on the leg left bare by a pair of cut-off shorts, coming up to right under the buttocks.
Esquivel grew up around the Southern California music scene. Getting his start in Orange County in the '90s, he variously befriended and shod acts like Gwen Stefani and No Doubt, Social Distortion, Pearl Jam, Nine Inch Nails and the reformed Guns N' Roses.
Aided by a growing celebrity clientele ("Nick Cage bought fifteen to twenty pairs, in some crazy colors!," Esquval told StyleList), the designer is enjoying a rising prominence in the high fashion and music worlds alike.
His current muse is singer Janelle Monae, whose new toe-tapping video "Tightrope" dropped earlier this month and features Esquivel's distinctive two-tone dancing shoes.
Esquivel, who is growing his women's business but whose clientele is currently about 65% male, can charge $4,500 for a bespoke pair of shoes.
"For that I get down on my hands and knees and measure your feet," he said with a smile during a recent visit to New York. Less expensive versions cost around $700 at retail outlets (like Forward, Capital and Sateen) , but you can get made-to-order for $900.
"I've been doing the shoe business 15 years," he told StyleList. "I don't know when it went from a hobby to what it is, but I've had my store [in Buena Park, Orange County] for seven years."
Esquivel described a difficult childhood, moving often and growing up in motels, with a father who was a criminal. "When I was 19 I kicked him out of the house and became head of the household," he said matter-of-factly.
Now 39, with a wife and two children (who, contrary to the cliche, do not go barefoot -- I asked), he seems the latest iteration of the self-made American fashion icon personified in the previous generation by Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein.
And if you're in the market for a pair of leather leg sleeves -- price to be determined, but they won't be cheap -- he's your guy.