Pechuga Vintage’s Johnny Valencia Dares to Dream Big

FASHIONBy 2024-01-24T15:47:34-05:00December 12th, 2023|
  • Johnny Valencia. Photo by Brooke Taffet.

Before Johnny Valencia became one of Hollywood’s most sought-after vintage designer plugs – securing shoes, dresses, and other garments for clients including Beyoncé, Rihanna, Anitta, Ice Spice, Pedro Pascal, and the Kardashian-Jenner family — Valencia had several career paths he wanted to pursue.

He began college with aspirations to become a veterinarian, so he signed up for science courses and even lived on a farm. While there was still time to change his major, he switched over to international relations and economics. After all, his grandmother hoped to see him become the future president of El Salvador one day. This lead him to study abroad at Sciences Po, one of France’s top political science universities. The three-month intensive program turned into a year-long stay: he had fallen in love with Paris. And as Valencia perused the Parisian thrift stores, another passion began brewing.

In one shop, he came across a Vivienne Westwood MAN jacket that he says was the most luxurious thing he had ever tried on. However at $1,400 dollars — three months of his rent — he couldn’t afford it. So began his second-hand fashion obsession. Today, Valencia is the proud founder of Pechuga Vintage, a Los Angeles-based online store that sources and sells vintage and contemporary designer clothing, shoes, and accessories.

Photo by Josef Jasso.

“Getting my start in this field began with me just fulfilling my dream of expressing myself in the [clothing] I enjoyed, but then I had a lightbulb moment when I realized there were no Latinos in fashion that I could relate to. I used to think that my story had to be unique to have an impact, but then I learned what we need is representation. I want to be visible so that other Latinos can relate to this industry,” Valencia tells LATINA.

While still working at the Salvadoran consulate in his mid 20s, Valencia took on an unpaid internship at Vivienne Westwood’s wholesale department. His days of wearing boring outfits to his consulate job hung heavy on Valencia, who would watch John Galliano’s Dior fashion shows for inspiration while he and his friends got ready for their nights out. As soon as the opportunity arose, he traded in his plan to become a diplomat for a full-time position at Vivienne Westwood’s Los Angeles corporate office and showroom.

“Working for Vivienne Westwood was very formative to my understanding of how business works,” Valencia explains.

After the designer passed away in December 2022 , Valencia published “Everything is connected: a love letter to Vivienne Westwood” in Dazed, noting that the lessons he learned while working for her encouraged him to take the leap and pursue his passion for collecting. He launched Pechuga Vintage in 2018.

At Pechuga, Valencia now employs two assistants and has several investors and business partners who counsel him on the business and invest in pieces sold at the shop. Valencia is the man to call if anyone in Hollywood needs a niche item of clothing that only he can source like Chanel cuffs for Kim Kardashian, a Versace bomber jacket for Daddy Yankee, or eight-inch Vivienne Westwood heels for Ice Spice’s Billboard award win as 2023’s R&B/hip-hop Rookie of the Year.

As one of just a few Latino vintage designer archivists who is reselling and trading fashion online at his scale, Valencia wants to see other Latino-owned vintage clothing businesses join the space and thrive as well. A few Latino small businesses Valencia recommends to support include Mom N Dad, Crazi Selection, Fffran Shop, and Girl Rarities. He also encourages anyone pursuing a passion project to dream big.

“Never diminish your work. Words have power. Pechuga Vintage is not just ‘a little business’ or a ‘small project.’ This is big because it matters to me. We deserve more and if we can dream it, we can achieve it.”

Zameena Mejia is a New York City-based writer whose work has appeared in Forbes, CNBC, Remezcla, Refinery29 Somos and more.