Meet the Citizens

Meet the Citizens

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OSCAR CALDERON
Born: SINALOA, MEXICO
Years at CITIZENS: 8
Position: SHIPPING

“Wherever I go, nobody can take this skill away from me.”

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OSCAR CALDERON

I was born in Mexico, in Sinaloa, but moved to Los Angeles with my family when I was 8, so I don’t really remember Sinaloa well. L.A. is my home.

I’ve been working at Citizens of Humanity since the end of 2009. I handle all of our shipping. There are a number of different teams that pack all of the orders—whether that be for our ecommerce, big orders from department stores or boutiques, here in the U.S. or even internationally. The orders are all brought over to me and then I am in charge of getting them to the customer.

I listen to a lot of punk music while I work. I just found out about the Dropkick Murphys so I’ve been digging into all their music. When it’s a busier time at work, the music gets heavier and faster. It makes it fun.

My favorite thing about my job is really the people. I love the team I work with. Irma, who oversees my team, is really kind and understanding even under pressure—it means a lot. My partner Olegario helps me out so much; he makes my job a lot easier. I’m lucky to work with him. And my mother actually works here in Customer Service, so she helped get my foot in the door here.

When I’m not working, I just love relaxing at home. I have two sons, 8 and 10, and the oldest is really into performing, theater, dancing—I go to all of his shows as much as I can.

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LAURA HERNANDEZ
Born: GUANAJUATO, MEXICO
Years at CITIZENS: 15
Position: SEWING OPERATOR

"I’ve been at Citizens for 15 years, from the beginning when it first got started."

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LAURA HERNANDEZ

I’m from Guanajuato, Mexico, and have lived in Los Angeles for almost 20 years now. I grew up on a ranch in the country, so moving to L.A. was totally different. Life in the city is much faster, but you know, I love living here because I love what I do … and I really love the beaches here!

However, I do miss the food where I grew up, especially mole. Mole takes a lot of time to make well, and in L.A. it just seems like there isn’t enough time. And of course, growing up in the country, all of the ingredients were so fresh. I make it every once in a while—my husband loves it—so if I want to make him really happy, I’ll make him some!

Ever since I got to Los Angeles I started working in factories, learning and perfecting how to sew. I’ve been at Citizens for 15 years, from the beginning when it first got started. It’s been really exciting to see how the company has grown. I’m proud of what I do and how I’ve grown with it.

I’m a Sewing Operator and I do all sorts of things here—wherever they need me! I never get bored and that’s what I love most. I primarily work on three different types of sewing machines and spend a lot of time marking where all of the pockets need to go on our jeans. I have a lot of freedom with my work, which is really nice. It’s important. And my co-workers are all just good people. I usually get to work early to spend time chatting with them before we get busy for the day.

When I’m not working, I just love spending time with my kids. My oldest is 18; I can’t believe it! The others are 13 and 11. All boys! Gilberto, Daniel and Jaime. I don’t want them to grow anymore … they’ve gotten so huge! I love taking them to the movies—I don’t speak English, but it’s not about the movie. I love going just to be there with them. And when it’s warm out we love going to the beach or the Santa Fe Dam.

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Tomas Quiche
Born: SOLOLÁ, GUATEMALA
Years at CITIZENS: 15
Position: SEWING OPERATOR

“I consider everyone I work with my friends; we’re all on a team, working toward the same goal. It’s nice.”

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Tomas Quiche

I’m from Sololá, Guatemala. It’s in the midwest part of the country; it has an incredible lake called Lake Atitlan that I miss. The landscape there is one of the things I love most about where I’m from. Everything is really green, and there are incredible mountains … it’s just beautiful. I came to Los Angeles when I was 25 and have been working at Citizens of Humanity since the company was founded.

I love everything about this city; life feels safe here. When I’m not working, I love running and I play in a soccer league. We have games every weekend; I play forward like Lionel Messi! My favorite soccer team is 100% Barcelona, and I would love for the Guatemalan national team to win the World Cup one day. Maybe one day. That would be amazing. You have to hold on to hope!

I work in the Citizens of Humanity factory as a sewer. I work on every part of the jean—the middle stitches, the sides, the waist band, the coin pockets, the back pockets, all of it. I learned how to sew when I was 15 back in my country. Sewing was my profession in Guatemala so when I came to Los Angeles it was natural for me to work in a garment factory. Sewing is what I know how to do best. I love how my projects change every day depending on what’s needed. It always keeps me interested.

What I love the most about working at Citizens of Humanity is the respect I’m given. There isn’t a lot of pressure or stress put on me; I get in relaxed and I leave relaxed. And I consider everyone I work with my friends; we’re all on a team, working toward the same goal. It’s nice.

I have three kids, one princess and two boys. They all live in Guatemala. One day, I’ll move back to live with them, but for now they’re my motivation to work really hard. This company has helped my family and me a lot. I’m very grateful.

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Susie Mendoza
Born: LOS ANGELES, CA
Years at CITIZENS: 10
Position: COO CM LAUNDRY

“My favorite aspect of my role here is that I can provide support and resources for our employees to grow professionally.”

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Susie Mendoza

I was born and raised in Los Angeles. I actually grew up in Huntington Park near where our corporate headquarters is.

I started at Citizens of Humanity in May of 2007. I love the advancement and growth the company offers. I’m the COO of the washhouse and this is actually the sixth position I’ve had in the 10 years I’ve worked here. At the washhouse, we receive garments in raw fabric already completely sewn together, and we will work with them to get them to their desired color—whether that be with distressing, washing, dying, creating whiskering, finishing touches or more often than not a combination of all those processes.

My favorite aspect of my role here is that I can provide support and resources for our employees to grow professionally. I love being a part of helping someone advance. We do a lot of cross-training so everyone here has opportunity to grow. When you come across someone five years, even 10 years later and they share how they remember what you taught them, or that you were patient, or that you gave them an opportunity—that’s the most rewarding thing. I actually got into this business because my father owned a cutting service. At the time it was mostly just men in leadership roles in this industry, and he helped me get my foot in the door. I was fascinated by how a garment comes together from the cutting stage to the construction part of it, and I’m grateful he gave me the exposure and opportunity to learn.

I have one son and two daughters and I have been married for over 20 years. It’s tough to offer advice for how to balance career and family life, but at the end of the day I’m working for my family. There’s really no easy answer, but I just try my best and run with it. I also like to be really active and make sure I’m taking care of myself so I can take care of everyone else. For me a lot of the time it’s just driving to the beach and renting a bike for an hour to ride along the coast. I’ve found simple things like that are really important for me.

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MIGUEL MUNOZ
Born: VERACRUZ, MEXICO
Years at CITIZENS: 15
Position: SEWING OPERATOR

“What I love most about my work is that I really feel like I have freedom here—freedom to do my job well.”

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MIGUEL MUNOZ

I’m originally from Veracruz, Mexico. I moved to Los Angeles when I was 17. I do miss my family. It can be hard, but I really love living in such a big city. It’s hard to get bored with all the beaches, parks, museums and movie theaters. When I’m not working, honestly, I just like to rest at home, but when I do get out I love visiting the mountains, and my absolute favorite thing to do if I’ve been feeling stressed is to go to the beach, sit on the sand and just breathe in the ocean air.

I’ve been at Citizens of Humanity for about 15 years, pretty much since the company started. I’m a machine operator and to put it simply, I focus on all of the sewing related to the front rise of our jeans, working on the zipper and fly area. In about eight hours, I can work on anywhere from 1,000 to 1,200 jeans just depending on how complicated the pattern is. What I love most about my work is that I really feel like I have freedom here—freedom to do my job well. I have friends that work at other local L.A. factories where even their bathroom breaks are scheduled. My boss, Eric, really understands the work I do and is kind. There’s a mutual respect.

When I got to Los Angeles, I actually knew nothing about sewing. I had an uncle who had a tiny factory here and he said he would teach me. I looked really young so it was hard for me to get a job; I was grateful he took me in and taught me. I started out with easier things like learning how to sew on buttons and do simple stitches, but over time I learned how to work on the overlay machine that I work on now.

My tip for if you’re feeling stressed or even just lethargic at work is to listen to music—electronic music always wakes me up and motivates me to keep at whatever I’m working on. I love it.

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ALAINA MILLER
Born: MONTESANO, WA
Years at CITIZENS: 4
Position: WOMEN'S DESIGNER

“I love the artistic community and the support that people have for each other doing creative things here.”

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ALAINA MILLER

I grew up in Washington in a small town called Montesano that only had one stoplight. I studied apparel design at Washington State University. After I graduated, I found an internship on Craigslist and packed up my car and drove to Los Angeles. I’ve been here for over 10 years now and I love the artistic community and the support that people have for each other doing creative things here, whether they’re in music, visual arts, filmmaking, or whatever it is. It’s really inspiring.

At Citizens of Humanity, I am the designer of our Women’s Collection. My day to day depends on where we’re at with the collection, but generally the design process of a new season starts with deciding on which styles and washes we want to build on as well as gathering inspiration from runway shows, street wear, vintage pieces we find, everywhere. From there, we start to develop a sense of the mood and lay a foundation for what we’d like to create. We meet with denim mills to have a look at their new fabrics and think about which silhouettes might be conducive to different materials. Then we get started designing our samples. We are really lucky that we work in the same building as our sample makers, pattern team, and cutters, and that our washhouse is only about 15 minutes away. Our process of making the pieces is really interactive. Everyone is so talented, there are often times when there will be a piece where the sewers are supposed to be following the vintage sample for construction, but they may have another idea for how to do that seam or pleat, or whatever it is, and so we discuss and come up with the best version together. We work with the washhouse in the same way; it’s easy and a really nice working relationship.

I think my favorite part of the job is getting a sample back from the washhouse. We’ll get it trimmed, pressed, and then we’ll pick out the buttons and rivets that go on it. Every day we get deliveries of the samples that we’re working on, and when we get a really beautiful sample back it’s so exciting. It’s like Christmas morning three times a day.

Beyond that, I just love our team and I love working with our creative director of design, Karen, and our CEO, Amy. They are great leaders. They encourage, they challenge, and ultimately are women I aspire to be like.

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Damaris Sosa
Born: SAN PABLO JOCOPILAS
Years at CITIZENS: 15
Position: QUALITY CONTROL INSPECTOR

“I love learning and really put in a lot of effort and work hard when I’m given the chance.”

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Damaris Sosa

I am from San Pablo Jocopilas, which is in the Suchitepéquez department of Guatemala, in the southwest. I was 25 when I moved to Los Angeles and I’ve been here for almost 20 years now.

I work in quality control, so my day to day can vary. My job is to check all of our garments before they are shipped out. If I find an inconsistency, I take the garment to the appropriate department to be adjusted. For example, sometimes it’s just that the jean needs a bit more time in the wash, so I see that it gets handled.

I love the people I work with. We all work really well together. My supervisor has taught me so much; I’ve learned so much from her since I started, and she’s always helping me grow more. I love learning and really put in a lot of effort and work hard when I’m given the chance. I never could have imagined how much goes into making a pair of jeans before I worked here! When I saw the whole process, all I could say was “Wow!” There are so many details to our clothes.

I love spending time with my family when I’m not working. I have five kids and I love cooking traditional Guatemalan food for them, especially Chicken Pepian. Pepian is similar to what Mexicans call “mole,” but we make it with pumpkin and sesame seeds. You know, you can find good Guatemalan food here in L.A. There aren’t a lot of restaurants, but if there are Guatemalans in the kitchen, you can trust it.

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GLADYIS RENTERIA
Born: NAYARIT, MEXICO
Years at CITIZENS: 15
Position: SEWING OPERATOR

“It’s neat finding work you love when you’re so young and then growing with it.”

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GLADYIS RENTERIA

I’m from Nayarit, Mexico, and moved to Los Angeles when I was 22. L.A. is where I’ve built my life: I got married here, my kids were born here, I started my career here. But I do really miss home—we’d have big get-togethers with extended family that were really fun. I grew up in the city, but the ocean wasn’t too far, and I loved going swimming. The ocean water there is warm! It’s so hard to get in the water here because it’s freezing.

I didn’t work when I was in Mexico. I was still living with my parents, but when I moved I got a job downtown, where I learned how to sew and work the different sewing machines. I loved sewing right away because it’s not just doing one tedious task. It’s complicated—there’s a lot to learn, a lot of different aspects to it. I work in the fashion department now, so one day we’ll work on a jacket, the next day a pair of shorts. It changes all the time.

I am one of those people who gets bored if I have the same work to do every day. I like working on all types of different garments, anything from a special pocket to zippers, collars, you name it. Because my work is different every day, I’m always learning. You can never master sewing—there’s always more to learn!

I’ve been at Citizens for about 15 years. My favorite thing about working here is the ambience, how everyone treats each other. I’ve worked at a few different factories, and leadership can really make or break a place. Not to flatter my boss, but he really treats everyone with respect and makes sure we have a great work environment. When it’s hot, we’ve got Gatorade, we’ve got cool air; it’s all the little things like always saying good morning that mean a lot. It makes you want to work hard.

When I first moved to L.A., a friend helped me get a job at a factory and I learned how to sew there. I started on a Monday; they gave me a stack of skirts all the same size to work through. I finished the stack on a Wednesday—which is a pretty slow turnaround—and it came out horrible. I had to redo the whole thing and that’s how I learned, little by little, figuring it out as I went. I was only 22 and I didn’t know anything. It’s neat finding work you love when you’re so young and then growing with it.

When I’m not working, I love spending time with my kids. I have two daughters, one that’s 25, another that’s 16, and my son is 21. One of our favorite things to do is spend time in Redondo Beach together.

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FELIX RAMIREZ
Born: PUEBLA, MEXICO
Years at CITIZENS: 15
Position: SEWING OPERATOR

“I’m a soccer mom. When I’m not working I’m out with my son watching him play.”

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FELIX RAMIREZ

I’m from Puebla, Mexico, but I’ve been living in Los Angeles for almost 30 years. I miss my parents, I miss the land where I’m from; I have so many good memories there, but I’m pretty much just as much American as I am Mexican now.

I’m a soccer mom. When I’m not working I’m out with my son watching him play. He’s 16 and every eight days he has a game. He plays left midfield and I’m out there with water, fruit, sunscreen—everything he needs.

I learned how to sew in school, and when I moved to L.A. there were lots of little factories that would give you the chance to really learn. Nowadays factories only want people with experience and they’ll have a manager watching you closely. Can you imagine trying to learn like that? I was lucky that wasn’t the case when I was starting out. When I had my son I took a year off, and then when I was ready to go back to work I got a job at Citizens of Humanity. It’s been about 15 years now!

I love when I see people out wearing Citizens. I always point them out to whoever I’m with, like, “Those are our jeans!” When I go shopping with my daughter, we like to go to Nordstrom and see the jeans hanging all finished. It makes me feel so proud.

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ERIKA VILLANEDA
Born: LOS ANGELES, CA
Years at CITIZENS: 2
Position: PRODUCTION PLANNER

“I love to experience this city. It’s a huge melting pot of cultures and people.”

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ERIKA VILLANEDA

I am born and raised in Los Angeles. I feel so lucky to be from here. I’ve lived all over the city—Los Feliz, Huntington Park, Chinatown, Glendale. I love to experience this city. It’s a huge melting pot of cultures and people, and there’s always something to do. I love visiting museums; LACMA, the Getty Villa and the Broad are my favorites.

I got my start at Citizens of Humanity working at the front desk of our washhouse, and from there I was promoted to be the Human Resources Assistant, and I am currently the Production Planner at the washhouse—I coordinate all of the cuts and make sure everything is sent to the warehouse on time. It’s a lot of communication with our corporate headquarters and also has me working closely with all of the supervisors here to make sure all of the employees are happy, so that we’re efficient.

Because we are always developing so many different washes, we get to learn so much together, and that’s really the beauty of the job. I’ve been here for two years and there are people that have been here for 10-plus, but we are always learning! Some days are really challenging, but I don’t look at challenges as bad because that’s how you grow.

I learned how to be the Production Planner because I had about 150 people that taught me! Everyone that works here has expertise in their specific departments and so I would ask them to teach me about each area. That really helped me see the big picture so I can do my job well.

If someone comes to visit the washhouse, I’m often one of the people that will give a tour. I love giving them because I’m so proud of what we do here.