The Guayza Project: The Art of Dressing Well
The Guayza Project is a fashion design collection dedicated to reviving and updating the rich cultural history of textile and clothing design characteristic of the Cuban province of Ciego de Ávila. Building on traditional techniques, the Project experiments with the latest developments in fashion, especially the styles preferred by younger generations, with the fundamental aim being to produce and bring to market fine clothing items that are genuinely Cuban.
At the beginning raw canvas was the only material used by the Project, but their line has expanded to include all kinds of fabrics, including cotton, linen, mesh, crochet-work, and other similar textiles ideally suited to Cuba’s tropical climate. The group’s portfolio includes a number of more formal items, including dresses, shirts, trousers, shorts and capris, along with the distinguished guayabera – the hallmark of traditional Cuban clothing culture that the Project includes as a reference point to the past and a way of encouraging the custom of dressing up.
The guayabera’s embroidery is done by hand, with interesting stitch-work, some of which is done with techniques that had practically been forgotten. Other classic guayabera techniques include the painstaking parting of threads in the material to create a pattern of deliberate tiny holes, or the insertion of beadwork or crochet where the threads reunite. These kinds of elaborate handwork from centuries past, with their Spanish and French influences have been resuscitated and incorporated in the new designs.
The “Guayza” store, located at the end of the main boulevard in the city of Ciego de Ávila, is the place where the Project sells its products, but it also works with a number of Cuban firms in the cultural and tourism markets to expand sales.
The Project has also worked with visual artists, to create a fusion of art and clothing design: in 2007, the group presented a design inspired by a portrait of María Luisa Gómez Mena, by Carlos Enriquez. The work Grito y canto (Song and Cry) by Eidania Pérez was the inspiration for another creation in 2008, in unprocessed leather, and in 2011 a number of designs were based on the work of the 2009 National Visual Arts prizewinner, Nelson Domínguez.
In just 12 years, the Guayza Project has received many awards, namely the three Iberian Fashion Awards, for its Opia, Haumatec and Haumatec II collections, in 2002, 2004 and 2006.
The Moneda prize was also granted to the Project by the city of Ciego de Ávila in 2011, on the basis of its body of work and collected prizes, and most recently, the group received the highest honor bestowed by the National Syndicate of Cultural Workers, the “Jewel of Culture”.