Anyone can easily find a Frida Kahlo accessory such as a pin, button, journal or mini-altar in Mexican artisanal boutiques throughout East LA or SanTana—but an outfit to dress just like Frida herself? Thankfully, LunaSol in Uptown Whittier has us Frida wannabes covered.
Nestled on Bright Avenue in Uptown Whittier—the quieter neighbor of the ever-so-popular Greenleaf Avenue—LunaSol Mexican Vintage, Books & Art Gallery is a charming hole-in-the-wall shop filled with vibrant Mexican artisanal treasures, Chicano literature, art, jewelry, and vintage clothing and shoes.
Throughout LunaSol's 12 years on the Bright block owner Janelle Gonzales has not only provided Uptown Whittier with a dose of authentic Mexican culture but has also showcased the works of notable Chicano artists such as Lalo Alcaraz, Javier Hernandez, George Yepes, Weekly' beer critic Robert Flores, Vibiana Aparicio-Chamberlin, Guadalupe Reyes, Rudy Andrade, Gene Alfaro, Sergio Robleto and Marco Kooiman, an Italian artist from Rome. Gonzales also welcomes new and independent artists to display their work at LunaSol. Book signings and art shows are occasionally held at the quaint boutique too.
Celebrating and selling Mexican artistry is in Gonzales' blood—her mother's great-great grandmother was one of the first business owners to have a cart on Olvera Street
Gonzales' mother originally named the shop "Hecho de Alma"(Made from Soul) but after the move in 2004, Gonzales renamed the shop to "LunaSol"(Moon Sun) which was influenced by her times spent at Luna Sol y Tierra—a vegan cafe near MacArthur Park which was a hub for Chicano artists in the 90's. "We're ruled by the sun and the moon," Gonzales says, "It always stuck with me."
After working in high-end retail during college, Gonzales realized she didn't feel connected to pieces in mainstream fashion and felt they lacked a sense of individuality. After years of dancing Mexican
Each clothing piece at LunaSol is thoughtfully curated by Gonzales herself, making the shop a unique cultural experience as oppose to shopping at average thrift stores. A casual browse through LunaSol's clothing racks reveal handcrafted silk or cotton huipil blouses from Oaxaca and Chiapas, Mexican wedding dresses from the 60's, rebozos—Mexican scarves, Mexican market bags, men's guayaberas, Mexican-influenced graphic tees for children, vintage shoes, and even 1940'/50's Pendleton jackets with Virgin de Guadalupe and Frida Kahlo portraits embroidered on the back.
Whether Latin American designs slipping into mainstream fashion nowadays is appropriation or not, Gonzales says she supports the newfound interest in Latino culture as long as it's practiced responsibly. She supports mainstream designers who try to have artisans involved in the production process and receive fair compensation and treatment for their work. "Where was it made?" Gonzales asks, "If it was made in China, I'm not a fan of it all and it makes me angry." Most of LunaSol's fashion pieces are purchased from Mexican artisanal artists who rely on their craftsmanship as their livelihood.
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Gonzales is also quick to make sure people realize they are indeed consuming Mexican culture even if mainstream fashion brands say otherwise, "It's not 'Boho'...and it's not a trend." she says.
Aside from vintage fabrics, LunaSol also houses a collection of traditional Mexican pottery dating back to as early as the 1920's. According to Gonzales, Americans would travel to Mexico in the 1940's and 50's and bring back the traditional dinnerware as souvenirs.
As a strong supporter of small business and community in Uptown Whittier, Gonzales prefers calling her clients friends and even hand-wraps purchases in gift boxes with ribbons—which is telling of her friendliness and dedication to class. To Gonzales, LunaSol isn't just another brick and mortar but rather, a creative space to "celebrate art, culture, and vintage."
LunaSol is located at 6711 Bright Ave, Whittier. (562) 201-9415. Luna Sol only opens on evenings from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. or by appointment.