For Donae Chramosta, lovingly labeled The Vintage Contessa by friends, family and clients, fashion isn’t just a passion. It’s her livelihood, her way of giving back to the community, and her connection to the world’s curiosities. A Houston humanitarian known for her vivacious personality, generous philanthropy, exclusive product, and even her new public safety-focused podcast, Chramosta’s relevancy stands the test of times past, present and future as she works to create a lasting legacy doing the things she loves most.
On how she became “The Contessa”:
I started my career in advertising after graduating from Texas A&M University. Shortly after that I transitioned into a role with my family’s business, focusing on business development, marketing and sales. I was tasked with positioning our brand as the highest quality stone company in the southern region of the U.S. and was fortunate to travel the world in that role. It was on these trips when I mixed business with leisure, taking the time to search for designer accessories, which ignited my passion for fashion.
In 2003, while dating my now husband Rob, I started to collect more and more vintage designer items domestically and internationally. My friends were always so interested in these newly acquired collector’s items, so I started to buy pre-owned pieces. I resold them under the name Times Past Collection, in addition to my full-time job as President of Cangelosi Company.
In 2011, I officially took Times Past full-time, and created and founded The Vintage Contessa as a website and retail arm of the luxury business. It is rare to have something you are so passionate about evolve into your full-time career. I feel very fortunate.
On what’s special about The Vintage Contessa:
The relationships Rob and I have cultivated in the Houston community are a priority for our business, as we are passionate about supporting the city in which we live and work. Additionally, we prioritize our relationships with our buyers and sellers internationally. These relationships have allowed us to provide our clients with the most exclusive and highly-coveted designer pieces in the world.
In order to align our brand with others that are like-minded, I coined the term #ContessaCollaborations for my pop-up events, trunk shows and partnerships with other businesses in the industry. This has fueled creativity and innovation in how we market ourselves to potential clientele.
On Contessa in the community:
I am passionate about giving back. My parents were very active in the community, which is something I’ve tried to embody over the years, and I feel it’s important to instill a sense of generosity in my daughter. We wrote a book together called The Vintage Contessa & Princessa that incorporates our love of fashion and emphasizes the necessity of giving back.
A portion of the proceeds from the book go towards pediatric cancer research in honor of my goddaughter Scarlett who battled against and beat T-Cell Lymphoma. This past year, I helped raise funds for organizations such as Heroes for Handbags, CrimeStoppers and KNOWAutism. Soon I will be launching a podcast titled “Styling Social Justice” in partnership with Rania Mankarious, CEO of CrimeStoppers, to share national conversations that hopefully make tomorrow a better, healthier and safer place by offering solutions and empowering people from all sectors to come together for global public safety.
On her personal female hero:
Audrey Hepburn is the biggest influence on me, not only because of her style but also because of her humanitarian work. As a woman in the fashion industry, I’m inspired by her classic style with a touch of whimsy. My favorite image of her is when she is wearing the pink coat, dress and tiara from Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
However, my favorite Aubrey Hepburn quote is from her humanitarian heart. She said, “As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” She chose to use her voice to change the lives of children globally. Her voice inspires me in every step I take to help those in our community and around the world.
This profile was (Em)Powered by The Vintage Contessa & Times Past.
Edited from an interview by Eleanora Morrison.