The subtle sense of elegance
Sometimes, playing with one’s destiny can be an unfortunate strategy, but shaping it in search of our happiness always guarantees the best results. Thus I see the story of Jacqueline Fumero, who due to family tradition became a doctor, but due to her artistic calling and love of beauty, is today one of the most recognized names on the Cuban fashion scene.
She went from putting up curtains and upholstering the armchairs in her doctor’s office, to dressing her daughter with her own ideas while she formed part of a modeling group. After receiving a boost of confidence from her husband to launch herself, Jacqueline presented her first collection in an event organized by the Cuban Association of Artisans and Artists (ACAA), having worked non-stop for 72 hours, something that she confesses she never managed to do when practicing medicine. She searched stores for meters of fabric, here and there, reused second-hand clothes, painted hats, and thus managed to see her pieces parade along the La Maison catwalk, and she hasn’t stopped since.
Although to those who say they know her, she appears a strong and imposing figure, Jacqueline considers herself an extremely sensitive person. Learning of her experiences, personality and way of viewing life, I have discovered a woman without fear of making mistakes, and daring to the maximum. To talk to her is to immerse yourself in her business, the Café-Boutique that bears her name, where Negolution went to share her vision.
What has changed in your creations and how have you evolved as an artist, after more than fifteen years in this world?
The change has been very favorable; the fundamental thing has been discipline, now I plan more. That first catwalk looked like a showroom, with twenty pieces that had nothing to do with each other. Today there is coherence, a motive, it’s not only about producing a nice outfit. Every day I make an effort, so that these clothes represent me, they radiate elegance, and inspire people to want to wear them.
Many people have tried to pigeonhole me and say: “What are you doing in fashion?” Fashion. “And in fashion what do you do?” Design. “But within fashion design, what do you do?” Everything. From a floral ornament, a piece of lace, a wedding dress or a beach outfit, everything. One designs and to a certain extent, makes art and enjoys it. I like beautiful things, and for me the first priority is beauty, and then functionality. Unfortunately, that’s me, contradictory in everything.
As my training in this is empirical, I do few sketches and work more on the mannequin; I have thus defined two well-marked moments in my design process. Regardless of the fact that I really like beauty, I also like practical things, and I believe that a good dress is one that you go out with in the morning, and just by changing the accessories, you are still well-dressed in the evening. However, the evening dress I make is only for the evening, and my fabrics are mainly natural fibers: cotton, batiste, silk, linen, organza, Egyptian cotton or chiffon, so you don’t feel uncomfortable.
What type of woman do you think of when you design: Cuban or international, popular or elite?
When I design, I always set myself as the example, and given that people think I am a strong, determined woman, I imagine such a woman, without fear of attracting attention or entering a room and finding that everyone looks at her. Even if you have a simple dress with clean lines, it should complement your personality. I do not think of a popular or elite woman, I think of a successful woman, and a home maker with autonomy in her home, is a successful woman. Therefore, I think of “the woman” – elegant, professional or simply that woman who wants to look beautiful, regardless of social status.
What were the steps you followed to establish your store, create a brand, promote your name and now have such a well-known café?
“As long as the question is, I can answer it very simply: There is no written recipe that tells you what to do. I’m a doctor, and how many doctors can be designers? That’s why I can’t tell you “I did this or that.” What I can tell you is that I worked hard, very hard, and for me “no” does not exist. As soon as problems or certain situations start to appear, a specific solution must be found at that very moment. I do not have special dates. If you have a dream, go for it, but it isn’t easy.”
In addition to having a distinctive hallmark, Jacqueline is always looking for a way to collaborate and break with preconceptions, considering the needs of her colleagues and the future functionality of any of her pieces. Thus, we can see her working with Rox, Mayelín Guevara, Ismael de la Caridad, Valladares or the girls from Fresko, and all this because: “I don’t like people to put me in a box, to expect things from me; I like being unpredictable.” To the extent that one of the dishes she currently offers in her restaurant is presented on a classic school tray.
What other projects do you have in line, in terms of the store and your brand?
This café emerged from the boutique, and something occurred which we hadn’t expected. As my thing is design, and not gastronomy, I began to focus on gastronomy, on the perfection of the dish, and the drinks I like, and thus I began to gain strength in this area I am unaware of. I have managed to ensure that the restaurant is just the way I want it, so now I can dedicate all my efforts to the design, to bringing together the café-boutique, but maintaining the space of each. Right now, we are in a design face to transform the warehouse we have at the back of the space into the boutique, but ensuring that from the outside the two are understood as a single project.
In terms of redesigning the brand, a new logo has been created that reflects my focus as a designer, of creating beautiful products that are intrinsically simple and elegant. The dragonfly is a predominant element of the new appearance of the brand, and in a large part of the world, it symbolizes change in terms of self-fulfillment, mental and emotional maturity, and the understanding of the meaning of life, aspects that make clear my current perspective.
What problems have you as an entrepreneur had to overcome during your career?
If I were to talk to you about problems, I would have to say that everything depends on the way in which you look at it, because where you see a problem, I see an opportunity. If I can’t find a certain fabric, I use another. And in design I combine an animal print with flowers and it is spectacular, and nobody knows that I didn’t have enough of the animal print, and that the inspiration came from what I had. But that is what makes us different as Cubans, that we are not afraid of anything. I characterize myself by not spending more than two minutes regarding any situation that arises as a problem, because you end up tormenting yourself and closing up.
What else does Jacqueline Fumero dream of?
“That big dream that I have and that I am going to fulfill one day (to the point that she cannot speak about it without getting excited), is to represent Cuba internationally, to position Cuban fashion on the major catwalks. There are very good designers on the island, with lots of enthusiasm, and if we come together, we can do this. That would be my big dream, that Cuba be a fashion reference for the world.”
Despite preferring a hands-on approach to every detail, Jacqueline Fumero has full confidence in her team, and anyone with a drive to work and no limits is welcome on board. Unpredictable and obsessive, but also persevering in her work, she has broken the molds of the everyday to offer us a subtle elegance, both in terms of dress and food, which teaches us that no matter how hard the challenge is, the reward is always worth the effort.