"You gotta find your hustle."
Here at YCMC, we pride ourselves on keeping you in the know with what’s going on in our city, and we love learning about what's going on in yours. Just the other day, I had the pleasure of meeting with Johan "Chi Chi" Durango, but you may recognize him from Instagram as Chichifromtheyayo. He is the Ciroc Brand Ambassador of Florida. On and off of social media Chi Chi lives an amazing life but it took a lot of hard work, dedication, and talent to get where he is today. Born in Colombia but raised in Miami, Chi Chi describes Miami as an interesting melting pot of different cultures, a city with constant energy, people, and great weather.
"Many out of towners come to visit and wind up staying. It's a great city and I can’t compare any other place to Miami"
You probably didn't know this, but Miami's go-to guy started out as a talented and sought after custom sneaker designer. His beginnings were humble and his custom sneaker company, Chicustomz Inc., was created out of a solution to a problem. What exactly was his problem? Money. While in college he learned that he was going to be a dad so juggling work, school, and fatherhood put a strain on his pockets. Chi-Chi is a fashionable guy and an artist so he combined the two for his solution.
Around 2007-2008, the Air Force 1 was in its prime. You have to understand this shoe was a major staple piece in fashion during this time. In Miami you called them either Airs or Forces and wearing your Forces literally a few times before tossing them away was a normal practice. The idea back then, was that your Forces HAD to be out of the box fresh. The slightest crease or speck of dirt was a no-go.
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So there Chi Chi was with a pair of beat up Forces. Prior to becoming a dad he probably would've tossed them away and bought a new pair but instead, he customized them.
"Everything went from 0 to 10 really fast. When I would wear them out people would ask, "Where did you get that shirt and those shoes?" At the time I did it for fun and people would ask me to make something for them. I never really thought about selling sneakers or clothes but it took off and I needed the money. After that, I started studying the different types of paints. I wound up meeting then football player Thomas Jones. Thomas took me to the store and bought 23 pairs of Air Forces 1 so that I could design each pair around a particular hat."
The Thomas Jones order kept Chi Chi busy for about a month. It would take him about 12 hours per pair and he would break that time up into 4-hour increments throughout the day. His designs are extremely detailed and neat. The accuracy and consistency of his work make it hard to believe that they weren't manufactured. He was THE sneaker artisan of this time. For years Chicustomz Inc. continued to produce great work. Obviously, custom sneakers aren't in great demand any more but through his organic marketing skills and connections he was able to move into other ventures, hence Miami's Ciroc Ambassador! Chi Chi hasn't let go of his roots, fashion still remains an important part of his life.
"Fashion is important when you’re making a good impression. It’s how you wear it and not what you wear. A lot of people can put together a dope outfit as long as it fits your personality".
Chi Chi owes a lot of where he is today to good connections and treating others with respect. On the outside looking in he seems to have an amazing life. Chi Chi is happy and considers himself blessed while the challenge is conveying to spirit industry overseers, how much work goes into his job along with daily challenges. So what's next for Chi Chi? He plans on taking the liquor business by storm, owning a spot in Miami and creating big events for the Latin culture since it has a strong presence in Miami. Not bad for a guy who gets dressed from the bottom to the top.
One of Chi Chi's Chicustomz Inc. Designs