Mija Cultura Is A Houston-Based Street Brand Making Apparel For Rebellious Latinas

credit: Different World Image

JoAnn Elizabeth Alvarez and Karla Dominguez are the antithesis of clichés, except for how their worlds were meant to collide. The Latina Houston natives are both 25 years old, survived an emo phase during their teenage years, opted out of college to realize their dreams and have fierce entrepreneurial spirits. When they befriended each other, it was only natural that they would put their heads together to create Mija Cultura, a street brand that promotes their culture and lifestyle in the uniquely raw and beautiful way they see it.

Launched in 2017, Mija Cultura is a digital and pop-up street brand featuring clothes and accessories that speak to the complexity of Latino culture, whether they are fifth-generation and don’t speak Spanish, like Alvarez, or first-generation and are fluent in Spanish, like Dominguez. Popular items include “Mijita” and “Mijo” hats, a term of affection the women go by and at its core means “child,” “son” or “daughter,” shirts with the company’s logo and namesake, “Mija Cultura,” and a top that says, “If you’re reading this the chisme’s good.”

“The main thing that we wanted to show is the complexity of what is Latino culture. Something we always talk about is how if you go to New York or to Los Angeles, you can tell by someone’s fashion they’re from that area. In Houston, or Texas really, you can never pinpoint where somebody is from,” Dominguez says.

Their street brand reflects diversity in Texas, with styles going beyond attire and speaking to what it means to be Latino in the United States.

(Photo Credit: Different World Images)

“People love it because it’s real life,” Alvarez says.  

For example, Alvarez grew up with an assimilated mother, and dinner often included pizza and burgers with menudo and tamales typically reserved for special occasions. Dominguez and her parents introduced Alvarez to nopales and a variety of Mexican dishes. Alvarez said she immediately felt welcomed and at home.

“You feel like you belong, and we want our brand to be like our lifestyle,” Alvarez says.

The entrepreneurs and daytime medical spa employees didn’t always feel this way, however. They were both shy, emo and “awkward” teenagers rebelling against the world until they found a way to feel like they belong and could be their true authentic selves through the clothes they wore.

This stemmed from Alvarez’s experience being bullied in Rio Grande City for not speaking Spanish — though she jokes she can quote every Selena song perfectly. After dropping out of college, she moved back to Houston and pursued fashion and concert photography, including her fiancé’s band, Camera Cult.

(Photo Credit: Different World Images)

In contrast, Dominguez was raised by her mom, a Mary Kay cosmetics consultant, and her overprotective and “machista” dad. She spent much of her free time with her older brother and cousin at her grandmother’s house or in Mexico. She attended Texas Tech University, where she studied construction engineering, before moving back to Houston due to family and financial constraints.

Once Camera Cult’s music took off, the band sold merchandise, which the women helped with, and adopted a unique, personality-driven way of dressing.

“We wanted to be extra with set-up and always received compliments on our wardrobe, so we joked about starting our own brand,” Dominguez says.

Her brother, Julio Dominguez, a graphic designer with his own marketing company, 4TH LRGST, encouraged the mijas to make their dream a reality. With help from Julio and his wife, the friends began putting their ideas to paper, and eventually launched Mija Cultura in March 2017.

(Photo Credit: Different World Images)

The entrepreneurs hit the ground running with the introduction of a shirt with the Mija Cultura logo, a Selena tee — a huge inspiration — and a Mijita hat. While all the merchandise is available online, Mija Cultura also does pop-ups at different festivals and events throughout Texas. There are also plans to expand networking and selling opportunities in Los Angeles and New York.

“We’re extra with what we do,” Dominguez says. “We have a little fur display for the hats and shirts are hanging almost like a walk-in closet. It’s real cute and we get lots of compliments,” Alvarez chimes in.

Mija Cultura was featured in an International Woman’s Day Telemundo segment and has heard from customers throughout the country about the mark their company is making on their lives. The women would eventually like to bring their brand into store fronts.

“It’s about feeling comfortable in our own skin and going with the flow. It’s about how you feel in our clothing,” Dominguez says.

Read: 20 Jefa Pieces By The Latina Brand Hija De Tu Madre You’ll Definitely Want In Your Closet This Summer

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