STYLE Latina label fills gap in fashion market

Hispanics are the largest and fastest growing minority group.
In 1999, Helen Martinez looked around the American women's wear market and wasn't satisfied.
There were no clothes that she felt spoke to her as a Latina. So she took a lesson from her husband, who was working with companies such as FUBU, Ecko and Cross Colours that target the African-American market, and started her own label.
CHICA was born.
"I knew in my heart that there was an opportunity that was being overlooked, the growing Latin population in the USA," says Martinez. "My mother came to the U.S. from Nicaragua and my father from Cuba, and they both taught me to work hard and be proud of who you are, and that is a big part of what CHICA is about."
CHICA designs -- including T-shirts and hoodies -- are distinguished by vibrant colors, Spanish words and images celebrating Latin life and people. Martinez says her line draws inspiration from Latin cultures, including their food, music, dance and language. Martinez would not provide sales figures, but says the California-based line is catching on.
It was the 2000 national census that woke corporate America up to the country's booming Latin population and a burgeoning market, Martinez says. Hispanics are the nation's single largest and fastest growing minority group.
Available at selected department stores and boutiques nationwide, CHICA styles have yet to make many inroads in North Carolina, Martinez says.
But they can be found at