Chulo is a brand-new, innovative clothing line currently focusing on underwear, which is culturally relevant to today’s marginalized use of color. The company’s mission is to inspire young people to invest in a brand that gives back. Proceeds from every Chulo purchase are reinvested back into the community and to local scholarship programs.
I had the great pleasure of speaking with Ricardo Muñiz, who is also a social worker and was able to enlighten Get Out! to the facts behind the company’s mission.
Ricardo: So one of your favorite boys, Ricky Jarman, I did a feature that came out about him in [the blog] The Underwear Expert.
Eileen: I love Ricky
Yeah, I figured you do. So if you go to my page on Facebook or on Ricky’s, you can see him [in all his] pretty boy glory.
I’ll make sure I do! So tell me Ricardo, what makes your underwear different than any other underwear?
So this underwear line came up a couple years ago when I was approached by an underwear company that needed to redefine itself in the Latino market. He reached out to me because I was doing a lot of photography at the time. After working for a while it didn’t pan out the way we expected it to, and so we parted ways, and I took everything that I had created for them with me. It just sat for a couple of years. I was a teacher and a social worker working with youths in marginalized communities. I was looking for different, interesting ways in order to come up with fundraising programs or creative job programs, and this just sort of landed. I had all these ideas for a clothing line; why not incorporate and create an alternative type of company whereby you work with local youths in the local community centers to find a program that educates and trains and eventually hires them to be their own designers, promoters, models, spokespersons and vendors of a clothing line that is culturally positive? So the idea for Chulo was born. We wanted to create a company where young people in marginalized communities could invest in and buy in to it as artistic, interested parties. It is very expensive to do a clothing line, so after thinking about doing t-shirts, sneakers and jeans, we finally had to whittle it down to underwear. We relied on my background as a fitness photographer and decided what it was that people needed.
For our English speaking people, what does Chulo mean?
Chulo in Spanish means pretty boy. But it also has a derogatory use. It could mean “mama’s boy” or “lazy boy” or a boy who lives off women or a pimp. It’s sort of has both positive and negative connotations. The reason we went ahead with Chulo is, before us, Latinos in many cases have that type of image in mainstream American culture. Some people say they’re hard-working, while other people just call us brown immigrants who are on welfare. So I wanted to pick a name that meant something both good and bad to relate to our experience, something that was off the cuff and fun that we could relate to in Latin communities, and that non-Spanish-speaking communities could easily understand.
Very smart idea. You are a pretty new company, correct?Yes, we are only 10 weeks old. We just came out in June.
So then what are you going to do for Fashion Week?
We are sponsored, so I am going to be the headline act on September 12 at Uptown Fashion Week. It coincides with New York Fashion Week, and it promotes mainly Latino designers in communities outside of the main downtown hub. It was founded about six years ago by Albania Rosario. A lot of the Latino designers that were fighting to get on the calendar for Downtown Fashion Week are now in Uptown Fashion Week. It is at the United Palace Theater, which is huge and beautiful. So on September 12 at 7 p.m. is our show, and we are dedicating it to charity, because that’s what Chulo is all about, raising money for youth programs. So that night is focused on the brand Chulo and the partnership that we have. The local CBOs will be in attendance, as well as three other designers, representing the LGBTQ community showcase of people of all backgrounds and all ages.
What are CBOs?
It stands for community-based organizations.
Can you tell me what organizations you have partnered up with?
Yes. So right now we’ve partnered with BAAD, that stands for the Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance. That is up in the Westchester section of the Bronx, and we have a very successful partnership with them. Next is with UPROSE, which is the first Latino social community-inspired social service agency in Brooklyn. Another organization is Brooklyn’s Finest Dance Studio, and then two that are partnered together, which is the get kids off the street program, which is sponsored by Tropical Studios. That’s a dance studio that offers free lessons to youths after school. The Loisade Center is the original Puerto Rican community center in the Lower East Side, which is another partnership. There is one more partnership, which is El Museo del Barrio. That is the first and original museum showcasing originally only Puerto Rican art, but now showcases all Latin art. Their gift shop is now selling the underwear. That’s pretty good because it is a major artistic institution.
Ricardo, where are you from?
I am of Puerto Rican descent, but I’ve lived most of my life in New York.
Besides the museum gift shop, where do you intend to sell Chulo?
We’re going to be premiering sweats at the Fashion Week show, and we’re selling at all the community centers. Anyone can go to all the community centers and buy the product and then all the profits are kept there. The kids make money also, because we’re hiring them, and you’re selling the product and making money. Besides that we also sell online.
When you are constructing a pair of underwear, how do you size it? Do you have to measure the penis size?
So what we did with this, it actually took us about two years, because we went through a whole bunch of testing. And the testing did include a lot of trying on, a lot of squeezing in. The main thing we tested for was the feel of the fabric. We wanted to make sure that we got a fabric that the majority of people, both male and female, from ages 18 to 40, were comfortable with. We had about two dozen testers, 80% male, both for the gay and straight market.
I guess it doesn’t matter whether they are gay or straight; they all have penises.
So we didn’t measure guys’ junk to see how that would fit, but we designed it differently. We made the front a little fuller, the legs a little wider, the leg cut a little higher. We tried different incarnations, and we took photographs. Sometimes we had models take them with them and wear them for like a whole day, and then they would come back and give us a breakdown of, “Oh, this was too tight,” or “I’m too sweaty,” or “Oh, look, this was really cool.” So we did everything. We even tested the stitching. We wanted to find something that was comfortable for the majority of guys in the crotch area. So what we created was boxer briefs that stretch, that give. We don’t have any that are really racy with your ass hanging out. We were really trying to market a product that was comfortable and sporty, not so racy, so that we could partner with the local CBOs.