I knew before leaving Cuba at an early age that I wanted to work in fashion. When I opened my first store across from Fred Segal's on Melrose selling menswear I knew I was on track. The celebrities, press, Barneys, Nordstrom, being inducted into the CFDA—it all seemed a bit surreal to me coming from Cuba. Eventually expanding in New York, selling at Bergdorf's, my career as a fashion designer seemed perfect.
But life simply doesn't go on as planned, it never can, and remaining open to change is perhaps the strongest lesson I learned being forced to leave Cuba at an early age. Creating something from a real place of passion often requires letting go of plans and allowing last minute decisions to happen naturally. It boils down to keeping the flexibility to listen to your intuition and not being overly attached to any outcomes in life.
My approach to fashion design and creating in general has changed over the years, and distancing myself from a saturated industry has kept me passionate, sane and independent. It has allowed me to thrive as an artist, reconnect with my own values and understand with gratitude the enormous privilege I have as a Cuban-American. It has also allowed me to work with clients and people who validate my work.
The latest pieces I've created for the studio come from an authentic point of personal creativity—my early memories of Cuba that have a black/white with grey in between tone. This first round of creations is the beginning of a handful of pieces in which I focus on the mixture of emotions I've experienced with the reopening of my homeland. You can view these preliminary pieces here.
My aunt and cousin in Cuba. My aunt still lives here in Manhattan on the Upper West Side, she was the first one in our family to arrive in New York. She helped us get move to New York after my family and I arrived in Miami during the Freedom Flights of 1970.
The last several months have been an intense introspection for me and I look forward to sharing more about the meaning behind our work at the studio on my new personal blog.