Photos: Izuky Pérez
A career in journalism led her to fashion, where she found another form of expression. Well-known designer Yas González is allergic to the impossible — she’s perseverant, passionate, and intense. She seems to have stepped out of an adventure novel. She’s as Cuban as the royal palm tree that survives cyclones, although she has resided on the so-called ‘other shore’ since age five. Her creations carry Celia Cruz’s azúcar (sugar), the spirituality of her ancestors, and the golden yellow of our Caridad del Cobre, patron saint of all Cubans.
She has dressed princesses and famous artists, but for her no one is more important than her regular clients who visit her shop often. They inspire her to strive to be the great entrepreneur that she is.
“Art is my life, and I try to make my existence a work of art,” says the organizer of the Miami Fashion Show. She returned once again to Havana full of projects, to feed her soul and be inspired.
You studied Communication and Journalism, but you’ve dedicated yourself to fashion design. How was that transition?
As you know, I ran a magazine for many years, Hit Magazine International, and the fashion section especially captivated me. I decided to start studying design and I think that this transition, this discovery and career pivot, was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life.
How do you define yourself?
As a creator of dreams. Since childhood I’ve been a great dreamer. My parents used to call me out as a child because I was always distracted and creating fantasy worlds that only I believed in. My family was hoping that, as I grew up, I’d lose that habit, which in reality got worse! [Now] I spend my days daydreaming, creating fantasies that thank God have brought me achievements and successes.
And your work, how would you describe it?
Pulled by nostalgia, I returned to my roots to feel them, to caress the memories of another time in my life. The sea, the streets, the architecture, the smells, the lived moments bring everything back. Thus, just as Cuba gave me life, I wanted to transform my memories and face the past and bring colorful and solidary hope for the future through my art: fashion design. The photos of my childhood places constitute the muse interwoven in my designs.
What is the creative process for your fabrics and then for your designs?
The creative process for my fabrics begins by assessing the consumer’s need. Once I understand that need, the design process flows. In the case of my general collections, I design them from the soul for those who can express my work and allow it to be interpreted and appreciated.
You’re a self-professed fan of the 1950s. What’s the root of that fascination that’s so present in your work?
The 1950s began with a sense of hope and euphoria caused by the end of World War II. The world was experiencing moments of great optimism, which were reflected in fashion. After years of hardship and monotony, during which women had dressed in a practical way, a very understandable desire to wear bold and daring dresses was born. Undoubtedly, times had changed. Despite the troubles and tragedies that women suffered during the war, this had also been a period of liberation and equality, with which I identified a lot. My grandmother told me stories and shared photos with me of her with her friends, and since then I always had a fixation with the era and its unique elegance. Hundreds of young women had emancipated themselves from housework and worked as farmers, ambulance drivers or in ammunition factories. The idea that fashion was trying to encapsulate them in a romantic idea of femininity, of a stuffed bust and hourglass waist, was something that many were not prepared for. It’s one of the most influential time periods for my career.
You are very well known for your prints with Celia Cruz’s face. How much do you owe to the Queen of Salsa?
So much. I feel that her energy accompanies me, her strength, her unique style and iconic image of unsurpassed appeal are with me. Her executor Omer Pardillo is my close friend, he’s been important for my career and has allowed me to pay this tribute to the great Celia through my art. Having her on my prints, more than a tribute, is an honor; it’s beautiful to remember and revive through fabric someone who is so symbolic for our culture and who continues to give us so much sweetness and light.
Do you think that fashion is changing, that the ideal of the slim woman is being displaced?
Fashion is an engine of change and of social transformations reflected in clothing. Through it, battles have been won and vindications achieved. Over time, women’s clothing has been liberated as women obtained greater rights in a race for equality that even today unfortunately remains unfinished. I don’t think that the specific canon of the slim woman is being displaced by that of a curvy woman; but I do feel that there’s greater awareness in advertising of feelings and reactions about different body types and ethnicity.
What is style to you?
Style is how you tell people who you are without words.
What do you think of trends?
I’m against trends. I feel that people don’t want to wear the same thing as everyone else, as if they were wearing uniforms.
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced during your career?
The biggest challenge, without a doubt, is being a single mother and focusing on all the responsibilities that entails. This role has given me the strength and energy necessary to move forward unconditionally.
What inspires you? Let’s talk about muses and influences.
I’m inspired by emotions, experiences and being in love — with something, with someone or with a moment. Of course, I love very much, that’s why I’m always inspired.
Any pending desire as a creator?
I’d like to hold the biggest and most spectacular fashion show of my entire career in Havana.
Let’s talk about Timeless Cuba, the collection you presented at Paris Fashion Week, where we feel you relive the Cuba of today and turn it into art while capturing its essence. How was that connection with your roots?
It was one of the most beautiful moments I’ve had. The process of designing pieces of art with images that go back to my childhood, places that evoke unforgettable moments, has undoubtedly been the greatest and most concrete connection with my roots.
Many celebrities wear your creations. What does it mean for you to dress so many stars?
For me, every woman I see is a star, whether or not she’s a celebrity. Women represent the greatest artistic rewards I can have in my career.
Who would you like to dress?
I would love to dress my son and his future wife on their wedding day.
How do you deal with being famous?
I have never sought success to get fame. Fame can wear off; popularity is an accident; wealth is ephemeral. Only one thing endures: character.
Can you reveal the key to your success?
Self-confidence is the first secret of success, but also knowing your purpose in life, growing to reach your full potential and planting seeds that benefit others. The only great people in life are those who know how to be small.
What’s a normal day in the life of Yas González?
There are no normal days in the life of Yas González.
In a word, what is Cuba for you?
When you returned after twenty years, how was that energy shock?
One of the most exciting moments I’ve lived.
Right now, what does it mean to be back in your homeland once again?
It’s a reunion with my true self, with my roots, with my people and my childhood.