For this edition of Insider’s Guide spoke with Joe Jenovese, who is the founder and one of the artists behind Y.A.Bera Clothing, a fashion brand focusing on a modern take on traditional Cuban Guayaberas.
Joe grew up in Miami in Cuban household with the guayabera being part of his identity:
The Guayabera is my childhood, culture, uniform, superherocape, everything. My family. My culture, how I can identify it without saying a word. Part of me.
Once a teenager and his mother and him moved out of miami to Ft lauredale, out of Cuban culture aspect of life, more american, traditional american, still south florida but less Cuban. Almost a culture shock, but I held on to that pride.
Joe and his mother used to go to Yucatan, Mexico to buy guayaberas. And that’s exactly where the story of Y.A.Bera Clothing started in August of 2013. Back then Joe was living in Yucatan, Mexico, the capital of Guayabera production and he decided to launch the brand. He started designing them and found a factory to make them.
In his designs, it’s important for Joe to preserve the Cuban nature of the guayaberas, but without stereotyping it. The goal is to introduce the culture to a new generation of people, to put a Cuban American twist on it. There’s no right or wrong way of doing guayaberas, but its yet another way of showing that Cuba is more than “sun, beaches and rum”.
There is a pretty wide spread in terms of customers for the brand. Loads of Cuban Americans like it and appreciate it, it is particularly popular at weddings. Not so much the older Cuban Americans, as some of the designs are wild, el viejito drinking cafecito and playing dominoes all day doesn’t like the wild designs that much. They do appreciate the artwork, details though.
Y.A.Bera Clothing is pretty popular in the cigar world because of the handy cigar pocket. The guayaberas are pretty standard in the cigar world, but its pretty traditional. Now its getting around quite well in that industry.
Perhaps due to Joe’s personal admiration for music industry YAbera’s guayaberas have been popular in the music industry too. Well known artists such as Cyprus Hill, Don Dinero and Cuban Link have all got some guayaberas.
Last year Joe applied to the CubaOne foundation trip and was selected, which was one of the most profound experiences in his life. He had always been proud to be Cuban American growing up in Miami and identified himself as Cuban American, immense pride behind it, but the trip to Cuba was transformational.
The foundation trip was Joe’s first visit to Cuba. He was stunned:
Vinales and pinar del rio were surreal, I understood Cuba from reading and from my family, but being there is different. It might sound naive, but I didn’t know there were mountains like that there.
Joe says he was blown away by the beauty. He stayed in a small casita, a casa particular, connecting with locals. The backyard of this casa was identical to his grandfathers backyard in Miami, which connected him strongly to his heritage. And of course Joe’s grandfather always wore a guayabera.