December 21, 2023

Marcela + Raffy

By Rebekah Bellingham
Marcela + Raffy

Marcela: I moved here when I was 24. So I had a couple years in Santiago to be able to work and you know, do my thing and I remember I always loved swimming pools. One summer it was so hot in the morning when it just started raining hard and I thought, “I’m gonna go to the pool, this is going to go away!” Anyways, we went to the pool and since it was such an odd day for Santiago, the newspaper at that time went to see who was at the pool. It was just raining and raining, no one was gonna go. They wanted to take a picture of someone in the pool and then they asked me if I would love to take a shot. I said yes and that was my first time modeling. They took a lot of pictures in the pool, then with an umbrella and then I was just jumping in. It was so funny! And I remember the picture in the newspaper. Not at the front but on the back. When my family saw that picture they said “What the heck are you modeling bikinis!” and I said, “I'm not showing anything.” It's just a small bikini. You know the Brazilian ones, very tiny, teeny.

Rafaela: Didn't your parents buy all the newspapers? 

Marcela: Yes, then my dad bought all the newspapers! They weren’t mad, they were excited! And then my friends are calling me and asking if I’m modeling. It was just that thing, a fluke. I was there. You know? 

So you did that in your early 20’s in Santiago, what brought you here?

Marcela: Love. I was dating him in Santiago for two and a half years and then he moved here because his family was living here for many years. I was 24. That was the hardest thing for me to leave. I mean I wanted to, but I was so close to my family.

Rafaela: I just have to note that you had never even had a sleepover at a friend’s house and then moved to another country.

You must have really liked this guy!

Marcela: Yes, my mother adored him. He was like a son, they had a good relationship.

Where did you land in the US?

Marcela: Portland! When I realized that I was living longer here than in Santiago, I thought oh, whoa, whoa, whoa.

What happened to the guy?

Rafaela: My dad!

Marcela: We had two kids, and we had a great time. We grew up. I don’t regret anything- if it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t have these kids. I wouldn’t be here. It was a hard move. But I have good friends. And great experiences here. I grew a lot and I was able to meet so many people from different countries, because back then Chile was very sheltered. We didn't have any immigration. We didn't have anything. It was just very, very, very sheltered from other parts of the world. Maybe because we were so far away. 

Raffy, what’s your relationship to Santiago now?

Rafaela: Well, I was born in Portland. But I've always been kind of split- Portland is obviously my home, but then Santiago always feels like home too. The first time I was old enough to remember and take it all in, I was 15 or 16, I had an epiphany. I was like, “Oh my gosh, everything just makes so much sense.” You know, just learning where my mom would go to school, where her house was- it just fully clicked. So yeah, I consider it my second home. I feel like I've always just been kind of split, half and half.

Marcela: And I think for her, and this is my impression, when she went as an adult, she kind of understood a lot of things about me. And that was amazing. And then the last time we went she had the opportunity to experience my friends that I have for 45 years…

Rafaela: She’s still friends with most of her childhood friends. We all got together for a barbecue and it was so cool to see my mom in her element with all of her friends and people that know her so well, calling her “Marcelita.” You've spent 30 years apart and to just come together and rekindle those friendships, it was so fun.

And there is something about those old friends, right? They knew you then... and it kind of stays the same. 

When I see you two here at the shop, you have an energy together that's so special. It’s like your emanating joy.

Rafaela: Yeah. Everywhere we go. Everyone's laughing with us!

I wonder if some of that has to do with this kind of crossing of generational worlds?

Rafaela: I think yeah. My friends have been able to experience it more because now they're friends with my mom, and they've never had that experience. I remember growing up, I would always go to my friend's house, and I would chat with the parents for like, 30 minutes and my friends were like, “Can we go now? You don't have to talk to my parents.” I just grew up chatting with adults and having that connection and friendship  with multi generations has always been an emphasis. So my friends are experiencing that now, being friends with my mom. 

Marcela: Yeah, definitely. I think it's a cultural production. Because you go to other cultures and you see parties and from grandma to the baby and they're all together. The kids were always sitting at my table so they knew how to eat at a table of adults when they were little. So to me, it was such a shock at the beginning. But little by little I think Raffy’s friends are able to identify… age doesn't need to define who you are, you know? Here, I built my community and friends since I didn't have much family. That's why I just treasure people that I know- I treasure you, I treasure a lot of Raffy’s friends and I always make sure that they feel that they are loved.

Rafaela: She’s a Capricorn too. She’s very loyal

And it's true. It doesn't have to be restricted to just blood. Family. 

Marcela: It’s true!

I should mention how stylish you two are. How does that come up and all of this?

Rafaela: Your parents? 

Marcela: My parents were old. My mom was 46 when she had me, she was a pioneer. I was the youngest of 5 so I was her baby. She had a cobbler, because she was tall and back then (she was born in the 1920’s) her shoe size was not around and it was hard for her to find clothes. So I grew up seeing her having things handmade for her. And my dad was very fashionable too. And he was always wearing black shirt with silk scarves. They would get all dolled up to go dancing. So I grew up seeing them and my dad always said “you need to always look good. Always look good.”

Rafaela: And same with my grandma. She always had red almond shaped nails and red lipstick, porcelain skin, big Dior style sunglasses!

What do you think it meant when he said to “always look good?” Like what was the reason behind it? 

Marcela: Image for her was important. She said you always need to look presentable because you don't know who's gonna be across the street. You know? And if you look shaggy and you're gonna feel uncomfortable and… 

Raffy: I also think there's something to be said about like, when you look your best you feel your best. I've met all of my mom’s  siblings and every single one of them has the best confidence. We spent a lot of time with my uncle  last time we were in Santiago and he was just wearing something super casual, but he's like, “I look great!” It was something about his… confidence!  He’s not wearing, you know, a crazy outfit… we are just going to the beach or somewhere, but he demands respect. So I think there is something to be said about the meaning behind, “you always have to look your best”

Marcela: True! He owns his confidence. More power to him.

So you moved directly to Portland from Santiago in 1990. Style wise, Portland has shifted a lot…

Marcela: Oh, honey, when I moved here I thought, “oh my god, is this the countryside or what?” I couldn't believe it. You know, they always say, and other countries always think that this (the USA)  is just the la creme de la creme- they always dress fine. Imagine coming from Santiago, a big city. So out of place. I was shocked.

So what did you do?

Marcela: I kept dressing like I was in Santiago, and I was always overdressed! My mom said “it's better to be overdressed than underdressed. So don't worry, keep doing what you're doing.” I was so criticized when the kids were born. I  always thought that colors don't need to be limited based on your age. So I always dressed them with a black turtleneck or sweater with jeans and black shoes… they always looked so chic! And other people were like, “why do you put black on a kid?” And I say, “why not?!”

Rafaela: I mean for as long as I can remember, we always always had our own style. She would let me dress myself but every time she would dress me, it was something that I would already put together. 

Marcela: I was always wondering why she needs to wear pink because it's a girl? I always focus on neutral… not being not light blue for boys. No. Black, red, any color! Yes, colors don't have age or gender. There's men that look great in pink! So I do remember I was criticized because I was putting black clothes on little kids.

But you didn’t care.

Marcela: No (laughing).

Do you have any style icons?

Marcela: I always try to make it my own and I always tell Raffy my motto “You make your clothes when you wear it.” You wear the clothes, the clothes don't wear you, right? I learned that from my mother. I remember we were going to a party with costumes, so she made me a dress with a potato sack with a liner so it wasn’t itchy. I wore that and put a belt on it and then she looked at me and she said, “See honey? Look what you're wearing- a potato sack and look! You can put on high heels or whatever shoes and then you can go have dinner and…”

Rafaela: And now you’re high fashion!

Marcela: And that's true! She was a big influence in my life because she was always telling me how wonderful I was. And maybe I wasn't, but I believed it. So I went out into the world feeling that I was wonderful. And the entire shape of everything changes. You walk taller, you go into the store with confidence, everything changes. So I always tell Raffy, “You can wear something that you found wherever, but you put your own style into it. And you can look like a million bucks.”

I like to compliment when I see something that I really like. Men or women, it doesn't matter to me, when someone looks nice, I stop them and tell them they look fabulous. The men, they have trouble with that and are thinking if I’m flirting with them or not. And then women, when you give them compliments, they say, “Oh no, look at this... “ No one needs to know that you are bigger than you’d like or that your arm is hanging or whatever. Just take it. Take it. Say thank you. It's been very, very eye opening for me that people don't take compliments. And coming from me, my size has always been fluctuating, but I can tell you that at every size I look pretty good. 

That’s confidence!

Rafaela: I was gonna say we dress very much how we're feeling and I think that's why we've never been able to pinpoint a specific style, which I think is really interesting because now everyone wants to put a label on whatever trend or era that you're in. We have never been able to be confined. We're chameleons, and I think that's because we dress for our bodies and what feels good. And also we just like what we like! Sometimes we're like, “wow, we really love patent leather!” and then we go down this crazy rabbit hole. It's always shifting and evolving. Which I think is what makes it fun and kind of unpredictable. 

You’re trendless!

Rafaela: In a world that is so obsessed with trends… like the 90’s.

Marcela: Oh, I love the 90’s! This leather jacket! I bought it in 1990!

When you moved here!

Marcela: Yes! Secondhand!

Rafaela: We don’t really have icons, but we copy each other. We get inspo from each other.