We had the good fortune of connecting with Desirae Ramirez and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Desirae, can you tell us more about your background and the role it’s played in shaping who you are today?
I am a proud latinx Chicana born and raised on Crewe St. in Whittier California. My background growing up in a lower income area of South Side Whittier has tremendously impacted me today to remain ambitious, courageous, relatable & influential for all the brown girls like me who have a love for fashion and art. Growing up in south Whittier, there wasn’t much access to well known supermarkets or malls nearby. Just a good ole trust -worthy Bob’s liquor store or the corner drive up dairy stand that took food stamps and credit. The malls and plazas were at least 2 cities away and the only shopping centers we had in our area were outlet discount stores like Fallas Paredes, Factory 2 U and the Santa Fe Springs Swap meet. If you were lucky, sometimes you could catch a Ross or Northgate Market if you had a ride to La Habra or La Mirada. There wasn’t much hype around the South Side of Whittier growing up but there was always family owned restaurants and a local viejito who sold you herbs and homegrown nopales for your favorite dishes. It wasn’t glamorous but it was and always will be HOME to me. There is deep nostalgia for me in Whittier that makes my inner child so happy. I Love my hometown and I rave about it every chance I get because the Chicano/a/x culture is RICH in Love, Light, Humility and Family there. We all support one another and know one another. Surprisingly, we are connected in one way shape or form. I can’t help but smile from ear to ear when I think about Whittier because my mom is also from Whittier. She is the person who taught me how to “make do with what you have and you will never go without.” She is hardworking and has the gift of gab. I watched my mom hustle her way through Whittier at 18yrs old to her late twenties grinding at every job she had. I vividly remember driving through Los Nietos Road in my moms old busted up 1996 Toyota Tarcel with an 8 track bumping Tina Marie in the 90’s. It was such a small compact hooptie of a car but it got us to where we needed to go at all times. Witnessing my mom haul that little orange car from Whittier to Brea and Cerritos College every day of the week taught me exactly what I needed to know at a young age. It showed me that success has EVERYTHING to do with ambition, faith, patience and humility. My mother was never boastful in what she wore, what she drove or where we lived, but when she opened her lips to speak you can hear the educated Chicana she was from the barrios of SouthSide Whittier. That always inspired me and I give great respect to my mother for raising me in the Whittier and showing me what it means to hustle to get where you want in life. You grind because you genuinely love it and from that comes passion. It’s a hidden characteristic that develops in you when you are from the chicano/a/x culture. There is undeniable humble pride in being a Chicano/a/x. I believe this has impacted me today, now that I am in my late 20’s. I could not be as successful as I am with my small sustainable vintage business had it not been for the upbringing of my hometown, heart of my mother, and passion for our raza cultura. We lead with passion, love with humility, and always work with what we got. This is the genetic makeup of the Chingona Threads brand. We create with what we have and hustle to get where we want to go in life. Whether that be in our careers, family life, intimate life, spiritual and political life. What we wear, how it is sourced, where it came from and how we wear it… is our activism. Sustaining our wardrobe/clothing also sustains our culture and our stories within them.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Chingona Threads is a sustainable vintage clothing brand that is inclusive and ethically sourced and styled by me. Chingona Threads is different from other vintage reseller brands because of my knowledge in sustainable fabrics, size inclusivity, anti sexual assault activism and my eye for turning true vintage pieces into chingon/a/x garments for todays clientele. I specifically source garments that are biodegradable, comfortable, unique and inclusive to all gender identities and nonbinary. I hand select each piece with a client and their stories in mind. I am very honest with the development of my brand and I openly invite my clients ( Chingona Fam) to witness this journey from the ground up. I think because of my raw vulnerability, my clients can see my true spirit and passion I pour into the brand and they fully support me. I have been told by my clients I am best known for styling and sourcing garments for BIPOC with curves and making them feel “muy chingona” in them. No matter what size you are, I will find EXACTLY what you are looking for and the quality is guaranteed to last 3-5yrs when taken care of well. It is important to me that the garments make my clients feel empowered. It is a form of activism to proudly rock a vintage item with a bigger and grander mission. My background from fast fashion, anti human trafficking, anti sexual assault activism, photography, styling and creative directing has established a trusted relationship with my clients. My knowledge for the fashion industry and the rise of sustainability can be seen all throughout my content and interviews that I have done. It is important for me to share the effects of the amount of textile waste that is going on right now and how a simple upcycle of true vintage garments can reimagine what fashion can look like and the affordability of what it can be. Chingona Threads was not easy to start. As a matter of fact, I originally created a soft launch page for my friends and family who wanted to purchase dope vintage finds from me. I would receive countless dm’s and text from folks about my finds and thus led me to share with them the benefits of recycled fashion. This ultimately grew faster than I could imagine and within 5 months of my soft launch I was shipping out orders every week all across the United States. I then started sharing on podcast interviews, Instagram Lives, and other online platforms about the knowledge I had learned and how we can all build our own sustainable wardrobes without breaking the bank. In short, it was difficult because I never anticipated the brand to grow as fast as it did and I had no other source of income to supply a hefty amount of inventory. So I would take $60 every other week to go and source through local thrift shops and bin diving till I could gather up enough inventory that was linen, cotton, denim and size inclusive. Once I started to list, items would sell within minutes. It was overwhelming but also gave me a high to go out and look at other ways I can reinvest into the brand. Which led me to the best part about owning Chingona Threads. I got to show my creative directing skill and make additional income styling, photographing and directing for campaigns and concepts. In just a year, Chingona Threads has grown organically online independently by the clients. No paid ads, or sponsorships of any kind. Just the clients happily sharing on their own social media pages. This by far has been the most exciting thing to witness because its genuine joy and word of mouth all from my clients. As the brand grows, I hope to do boosted ads, sponsorships and more but for now all of my models featured in my campaigns are real women who have bought from Chingona Threads and that alone makes me so proud. Additionally, styling 5 campaigns in my first year of launching Chingona Threads has made me so proud and still very surreal. I’ve styled and creative directed some of the following clients for these photoshoots. “International Women’s Day” campaign, “Chingonas in Solidarity” campaign “Saint Chingona” campaign with Annie Gonzalez of ‘Gentefied’ on Netflix photographed by Laarne Palec “HomeBody Baddie” campaign with musician and actress Andy Allo, photographed by Danica carver “Renea X Affect” Campaign with Beyonce’s Dance Captain, Ashley Everett and Creative Artist Kihmberlie As I reflect on my first year of Chingona Threads, I recognize that the financial investments are risky but necessary in order to grow the brand first and your own pockets second. Setting boundaries for personal life and work life are a must. Establishing contracts for collaborations and face to face meetings (virtual) are deeply encouraged to maintain a healthy relationship and understanding of the collaboration. Event sourcing less items was a lesson I had to learn because I ran out of space to store my garments in my home lol. But the greatest lesson I learned in my 1st year, is to make due with what you have and make art. You do not have to break the bank to create something that will touch the heart of others. Your storytelling is key and the rest will work itself out. My hope for Chingona Threads is to encourage folks from all walks of life to shop consciously and inclusively, embrace their own style, reimagine the fashion industry in an affordable sustainable way and to make due with what we already have. Chingona Threads is not just about sourcing and designing sustainable clothing but about sustaining the culture. Labels and brand names may give you a sense of status, but fashion is genderless and an artform, a style of expression and a form of activism.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Oh now you just got me excited! LOL 😂 Well first things first, we have to plan out our food tour extravaganza for the week. Which will definitely consist of tacos, poke, sushi, boba, and matcha lattes. We would begin by picking you up in the morning at the LAX airport and immediately driving to Guisados in la for some homemade tortillas and asada tacos! Hands down no matter how exhausted you are, you will NEVER turn down Guisados . On the way back we will stop at my grandmas in Whittier to pick up some homemade pastries and head to a turn out at Turnbull Canyon in Whittier to watch the sunset. Then on the way back to my home (where my best friend will be staying duh) we will stop at the local taco truck to get a midnight snack of mulitas from Travos Tacos in Pomona Ca. Then to spare you all from all juicy details of amazing food consumptions. I would take my bestie to the best local thrift stores in Cali and take them to Claremont Botanical gardens for a picnic with the BEST Poke bowl ever from Oni Sushi in Claremont and just about any Ding Tea in Cali has amazing Boba! Also assuming my bestie will be visiting when it’s summer, I would take them out to Laguna Niguel, La Jolla, Malibu and Manhattan beach while they are here. Best believe we will seek out a yummy sushi spot to indulge in . Finally finish off the final days with an airbnb stay in Joshua Tree. The most delicious matcha latte is at Crossroads Coffee out in the desert. Oooh and ya gotta hit up Palm Springs while you’re out there and take a stroll downtown to see the dope art galleries. Obviously Disneyland would be on the itinerary but for the sake of Covid still lurking around we’re going to pretend that amusement parks , The Library Bar and The Federal Bar in DTLA are open because how could you NOT pop in and show a bestie where the fun and good music is at. But as you can see, everyday with me will be eventful and always surrounded in laughter, great memories and good food!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would like to Shout Out mi familia and my husband Ricardo Ramirez for rocking with me through my journey of healing, self discovering, launch of Chingona Threads and most importantly my grandmothers, Frances Martinez, Lorraine Melendez and Alice Contreras. They are thee original O.G. Chicanas who taught me about our ancestry, fashion, sustainability, culture and hard work. My grandmothers and my mother breathe life into me an the designs and curation of Chingona Threads, I would also like to give a shout out to Tammy C, my sexual assault advocate from Riverside Area Rape Crisis Center and my therapist Lauren St. Jacques. These women have been beside me the past 4yrs in every way imaginable. From the night I was checked into the hospital for being raped in 2016, to the day I went to trial against my assailant, to the moment I became an activist and advocate myself, and to the many days of therapy to help me through my PTSD and depression. They are the unsung heroes of my success. Lauren, Tammy, Ricardo, my parents and my grandmothers are the ones who have encouraged me every day to regain my confidence and heal at my own pace with my recovery. They were the ones who pushed me to suspend all doubts and launch my small business. Thanks to them, Chingona Threads is growing rapidly and I am ALIVE today to share this message to survivors of sexual trauma and to all the young folks who grew up in the hood that hard work, patience, faith, light, love and healing … can make even your wildest dreams come true. Last but not least, lets also give big ups to all the local independently owned thrift shops that have been our safe haven for affordable and CHINGONA AF wardrobe finds! Yall seriously are the foundation of my “best dressed” finds since elementary to now! Employed as non profits and solely reliant on donations and state funding to stay open. I say with great joy and admiration to all the employees of thrift shops, yall are the worlds biggest unsung heroes of the sustainability movement. Without yall sourcing through, tagging, unloading and categorizing all the donations. Many of us in financial pinches would not be able to affordably furnish our homes, build a wardrobe or seek a place of employment. Therefore, my final shout out goes to all of you! Thank you for all that you do!
Ricardo Ramirez @RichyFilms Danica Carver @Danicacarver Laarne Palec @Laarne.co Desirae Ramirez @desiraeramirezz