Community, opportunity, evolution — that's the name of the game for Maximiliano Dominguez, Maxi for short, founder of La Rosa Collective and driving force behind its multiple projects and pursuits.
Dominguez's resume includes a screen printing company, fashion label, photography, STEAM ventures, nonprofit education and curriculum development, most of which operate as part of the collective officially launched in 2020 to “bridge the gaps between the creative and entrepreneurial ecosystems.”
In two years, Dominguez has become well known in both arenas, largely in part for his secondhand retail brand and store La Rosa Antigua on Main Street, as well as the monthly Forever Thrifted markets in downtown Little Rock.
We caught up with Dominguez to talk big ambitions, equipping the next generation and his first love: fashion.
You often use the term "creative entrepreneur" when describing yourself and others in similar positions. Can you break that down for us?
MD: Ahh! "Creative entrepreneur" is one of my all-time favorite terms that I hope gains momentum in the coming years. I’ve always believed that creativity and entrepreneurship are one in the same — yin and yang.
To be creative in the modern time, you must learn to sustain your creativity through entrepreneurial endeavors and practice. This know-how often becomes one of the largest barriers for creatives, and it's a real social issue that deserves more attention.
To be an entrepreneur in the modern time, you must learn to innovate through creativity. Businesses thrive and flourish through creative practices and implementation. Again, this know-how often becomes one of the largest barriers for businesses across various industries.
I found entrepreneurship through creativity as a means of survival. I became an entrepreneur before I knew what the term meant. My creativity fueled my endeavors and I became very intentional about learning strategy and business as a means to sustain my creativity. It's through this practice where I realized that the two are one in the same, and believe that the future of sustainable economies lives in the idea of creative entrepreneurship.
From launching your label RAIZ in 2015 to growing La Rosa Antigua today, fashion is obviously a big part of what you do. Where did that interest begin personally, and how did it evolve?
MD: Fashion is my first true love. That interest goes as far back as I can remember. I always would love feeling good in what I wear. It wasn’t until I became influenced by the skateboarding subculture that my fashion took a complete new direction. In the mid '00s, fashion wasn’t as widely accepted as it is today. The skateboarding subculture always pushed those barriers through the brands and companies of those times with styles such as skinny jeans, puffy shoes, beanies and accessories. It was truly the beginning of street meets punk, and I was all about it.
Inspired by self-expression, skateboarding and underground punk, in 2015 I launched my own label RAIZ which started as a cut-and-sew project. That led me to teaching myself how to screen print, design and build brands — ultimately inspiring me to make a career out of fashion. I owe everything to fashion, and I hope to inspire others to embrace and express the art of fashion.
What's your process for scouting and gathering pieces for La Rosa Antigua?
MD: Thrifting is something I've been doing since 2014. The process back then was “find something I would personally like,” and that process remains fairly the same. Now that I'm a store owner, I curate for a wider audience, but all through a personal taste that I've acquired over the years. You’ll find me thrifting locally within Arkansas, but just as much traveling to other states and cities finding hidden treasure.
In recent years, we've seen a surge in interest in thrifting and secondhand fashion. What has it been like to be on the ground floor of that movement in Little Rock?
MD: It’s been an absolute honor. I love both the art of secondhand fashion and the access it creates socially, just as much as with the unique business model it's built on. To be able to create a movement here in Little Rock is a prime example of the work I hope to accomplish within La Rosa Collective. Since our debut of Forever Thrifted Vintage Swap Meet, we’ve helped more than 41 new businesses debut and showcased more than 120 different businesses from Arkansas and surrounding states. Not only that, but so many of the locals have built so many great friendships amongst themselves, and the community is growing every month. I get chills thinking about it.
La Rosa Collective has four major pillars: awareness, education, opportunity and support. Why is this the magic recipe, and what is the desired result?
MD: I believe any kind of change begins with awareness. No matter if it's social or personal, becoming aware is the spark of opportunity for people to align themselves with a purpose. Through education, we can further our purpose of the future change we want to see. Education allows us to expand our skill sets and frame of thinking, and with that expansion comes opportunities. When people are presented with an opportunity, they need to be supported in those opportunities in order to realize their ambitions, ideas and/or future change.
Our mission is to enact and develop an institution that can foster and support those spaces in an effort to uplift individuals, ambitions and aspirations. Everyone deserves to live out their aspirations.
Many locals have come to know your brand through your Forever Thrifted Vintage Swap Meets. What has it been like to interact with the community in such a way?
MD: It’s been a pleasure! So many people have become a part of Forever Thrifted that I don’t believe many of them know my name, so the fall back is my brand name. (Nowadays I enjoy being called or referred to as “La Rosa” rather than my own name, if I'm being honest!) However, the most incredible part of Forever Thrifted is the community and the common love and interest we all share. It’s incredibly inclusive and everyone is very respectful of one another. I couldn’t have asked for a better community to be surrounded by.
You talk about the importance of providing "multi-tier support" to people at all levels, including a special focus on the next generation, even helping to develop curriculum both with the Amazeum and in your former role with the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub. Why is that a priority for you?
MD: I firmly believe in meeting people where they are. Supporting members of our community through education will never be a one-size-fits-all solution. I know this from experience in my upbringing within education, and that perspective became realized when I traveled across the state of Arkansas in co-works with the Innovation Hub from 2018-2020.
I’ve since dedicated myself to developing La Rosa Collective to be that collective space where individuals from all walks of life can come together on their ideas and be supported at whatever starting point makes sense to them. I believe this is the future of education and what a thriving Arkansas can look like. We need more intentional institutions that can nurture support and growth at the personal level.
We hope to develop a multitude of variant modules and curriculums come 2023 for community members across Arkansas to utilize as resources within their own communities. Whether it be for youth or adults, creative skill sets or entrepreneurship, multi-tiered support matters.
And finally, what upcoming projects are you most excited about?
MD: I've been working with a couple of different concepts and projects, and it's hard to say which one I'm the most excited about. I think what I'm most excited about at this moment is opening up a nonprofit segment to La Rosa Collective to further our educational work in 2023. We’ve done an incredible amount of work in the last two years in this space, but I'm eager to take it to the next level by working alongside other organizations in a common effort.
Creatively, RAIZ has taken a hiatus in the last few years as I’ve developed the La Rosa ecosystem, but word on the block is that RAIZ may be making one of the largest debuts Arkansas has seen in 2023. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see!
How long you've lived in Little Rock: I’ve lived in LR for 22 years! However, I was born in Salta, Argentina.
Your favorite thing about Little Rock: My favorite thing about Little Rock is the small town feel it has. Growing up, family orientation is a value that’s been embedded in our culture, and I often feel a lot of that here. Especially in projects like Forever Thrifted.
You're thrifting locally. Where do you go? Oh easy, the Goodwill bins. Clothing as far as the eye can see.
Social media platform of choice: Instagram.