Since my mother immigrated to northern New Jersey from Havana when she was very young, my understanding of her time in Cuba is fragmented, fraught with inaccessibility and lack of understanding of my family history. Similarities between suburban Montclair, New Jersey and metropolitan Havana, Cuba may appear limited, however, since the 1950s, both of these places have drawn vacationers in search of a very specific brand of beach getaway. Both local cultures are defined by ad hoc creations made in response to the tourist market. In Cuba, United States embargo necessitates inventive solutions to immediate, everyday problems. Repurposed motors from washing machines are used to shred coconut for street desserts. Northern New Jersey’s immigrant population also strives to improve their quality of life with limited means. In Montclair, the Watchung Deli’s simple, tin foil-wrapped subs are the only sandwiches that retain just enough warmth during the drive to Ocean Grove Beach.
Manipulating digitally printed and silk-screened fabric to construct beachwear-influenced garments has served as means for me to construct a reality that I only half know. My line Familia del Patio embodies the ad hoc philosophy, collaging photographs and silhouettes from both my past and my mother’s, to redefine my place within both narratives.
Madeline Lavosky is a Fiber Senior with a concentration in Experimental Fashion. She was raised in Montclair, New Jersey. She researches her lost family history to create visual, wearable narratives.