Fashion and Community: The Annual Chicano Elegance Gala

On February 18, 2023, the Los Angeles River Center and Gardens, Mountains Recreation & Conservation Authority was the site of the annual Chicano Elegance Gala. The event was a celebration of not just fashion but of a culture steeped in history, emerging to reclaim its roots and heritage.

This event–an idea more than a decade in the making–is the brainchild of 818 local, CEO and Creative Director of Wardrobe Divas, LLC (dba Thrifs), Elvira Zamora. Inspired by European houses of fashion and events such as the Met Gala and New York Fashion Week, she saw an opportunity to highlight, not only her brand but her community along with it. It was the perfect opportunity to showcase and celebrate Chicano culture and its talent and creatives, telling their story on their own terms.

“The event should mean for the community that we need to look at ourselves in a different way, we have been stuck on survival mode and have not had the chance to get to the celebration of who we are,” shared Elvira in an interview with the LA Journal.

Wardrobe Divas started in 2001 inside her father’s tailor shop in Canoga Park. Her father, a tailor for over 50 years is her inspiration. A passion for fashion and a flare for designing became her life’s work. “I was inspired by him and wanted to be my own boss doing what I love. I have always had a good time with fashion, experimenting, and expressing my artistic point of view through style,” said Elvira.

It was her passion and her commitment to her community that brought to fruition this amazing event.  The fashion show alone brought together local fashion designers Belinda Alvarez, Maria Peralta, Ariana Rodriguez, Califas Wera, Paulina, and Elvira herself.

Elvira started of the fashion show portion of the evening with words of unity and empowerment for the audience: “Walk into this world unapologetically and do not fall into the old but effective trap of divide and conquer. We are all in this together. The moment we realize this and unite, the power is ours.”

Proceeds from the event benefits local non-organization, Helping Hands Resource Center.

“Helping Hands creates a safe space for people who have been through domestic violence, sexual abuse, or any traumatic experience in their life.  This is for men, women, and children. They’re able to come in for different resources. Monthly or twice a month they can come in shop for free at our Storage bin. We also offer parenting classes, and we do clothing drives, we thanksgiving gift cards to grocery stores,” stated Karen Revelo, Donation Room Coordinator.

The annual Chicano Elegance Gala featured red carpet coverage by local media and interviews by Valley Views host Hector Perez-Roman, Cafecito Con Daisy creator Daisy Tornel, and The Profile Pod host Andy Zaldivar. There was also a photography exhibit featuring Alexander “The Hood Foodie” Orozco, Sonia Balcazar, Steven Villegas, Jerry Garcia, Cain “The Puppet Master & Calipso Aranda. The event was sponsored by Xicano Tequila, Mezcal Ilegal, Chicano Hollywood, The Brewyard, Pachucho CC/Steelow Lager & Echos World.

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