Lizzie and Dani: Preserving Traditions Through Fashion

January 11, 2018

By Andrea Lopez-Villafaña

Chicanista Boutique, Barrio Logan, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Danielle Cisneros

Elizabeth Rodriquez and Danielle Cisneros currently sell their merchandise from a pop-up shop located in Barrio Logan. Photo by Andrea Lopez-Villafaña

From having family members sew their clothes, to owning their handmade accessories and home decor boutique, sisters Elizabeth Rodriguez and Danielle Cisneros are dedicated to preserving their family’s traditions.

As co-owners of Chicanista Boutique, Rodriguez and Cisneros, sell handmade purses, hair accessories, jewelry, clothing, and home decor, all made from repurposed and sustainable materials.

Rodriguez said that growing up most of their clothes, costumes, and blankets were handmade, so being around that at a young age peaked their interest in learning those crafting skills.

“They are really important traditions, they’ve sustained cultures for centuries and for whatever reason, or reasons, a lot of these skills and trades such as cooking, welding, carpentry, sewing, are looked at I think in a demeaning manner, which actually should be the opposite,” Rodriguez said.

Chicanista Boutique merchandise aside from being strongly influenced by Latin themed prints, Mexican icons like Frida Kahlo, and colorful flowers, is influenced by the traditions and creativity of their family members.

“We’ve always been surrounded by it and when we opened our business we wanted to showcase what they have shown us,” Cisneros said.

Rodriguez and Cisneros both work full-time jobs, but they agreed to go into business together to create something that was their own.

In 2014, the pair decided to go for it and they started Chicanista Boutique, a pop-up shop located in Barrio Logan.

Cisneros recalls that growing up, they could not afford items that represented their culture from places like Old Town, so that was a motivation behind how they made their products.

They wanted to ensure that it was done in the most affordable way possible so that customers can purchase their merchandise.

“I’ve always loved fashion, and I’ve always like looking at things in a different manner but at the same time our goal is to make it affordable,” Cisneros said. “So if I could do it an easier way, or we can upcycle by recycling materials, that’s what we will intend to always do.”

Although they are not the only brand or business owners to showcase their culture through the items they sell, Rodriguez and Cisneros see the increase of Latino and Latina business owners as a positive.

“If our culture interests people that are within our culture and especially outside of our culture, that’s even better because that creates dialogue,” Rodriguez said.

Their culture is represented through the accessories and clothing items they sell, she said.

“We want to look cute and represent who we are, when you meet us, when you see us, when you work with us – confident, latina, exuberant, passionate women, and our clothing speaks of that,” Rodriguez said.

She also adds that although there has been an increase of in the number of Latina business owners, it is not a sign that cultural norms have caught up.

“It can be challenging at time to feel heard, respected, and considered equals when dealing with Latino male business owners,” Rodriguez said. “Cultural behaviors as far as dominance and submission, intelligence, and work ethic are put into question if you are a Latina business owner.”

However, the two sisters rely on one another to improve and challenge each other as business women.

“She’s my best friend, it’s my mentor, it’s my muse, it’s my greatest challenger, it’s a mirror to make me a better business woman, a better person, a better latina, I would never have done this with another person,” Rodriguez said.

Cisneros said because they can be so honest with each other, they can provide input on their roles in the business.

They shared that this year Chicanista Boutique will have new products, new events, and more workshops, which focus on inviting customers to craft or cook to inspire them the way Rodriguez and Cisneros’ aunts inspired them.

“Our business is one aspect of what we do as business owners but we also think contributing to the community is just as important if not more,” Rodriguez said.

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