Emmanuel Cabrera’s success in the fashion industry
Chicago streetwear brand Gente Fina made its first runway debut this October at Durango Fashion Week. Designer Emmanuel Cabrera flew out to Durango, Mexico, the state of his parents’ hometown, and now a pivotal step in his career.
His newest collection, “The American Dream,” combines luxury and workwear. Cabrera has never feared the idea of mixing styles, and it felt necessary when representing America.
“People think the American dream is gold and money everywhere, and we’re all having fun over here,” Cabrera said. “They don’t really get to see, unless you’ve experienced it, all the work that it takes to just be in the U.S.”
That mentality of hustle and owning his grit has pushed Cabrera to take his experience in sewing tarps for his cargo equipment company to go on to succeed in the fashion industry.
Attending the third edition of Durango Fashion Week was his most recent learning curve. Cabrera spent countless summers in Durango sporting Western wear as a young kid. These tender moments came full circle with his runway collection inspired by workwear with hints of Western fashion.
“This has been a dream of mine since I started the brand to do runway shows. So, when the opportunity came for Durango Fashion Week, I thought it was perfect,” Cabrera said.
Jumping on the opportunity paid off, and getting through rehearsals plus last-minute alterations were all part of the job Cabrera has been preparing for.
Gente Fina is Latino-owned, and the name translates to “fine people” in Spanish. Cabrera has his brand to represent his community and his culture.
The clothing brand has a bit of everything, ranging from beach clothes perfect for a day on the lake to cargo pants suited for a brisk winter day.
“The brand kind of moves the way I move,” Cabrera said, explaining that his style impacts the look of the company. “If I’m into workwear this year, then that’s kind of what the brand is going to look like.”
Their style first began with streetwear and has branched off into making custom pieces, like their popular varsity jacket making its way into the hands of the Chicago Bulls.
“They did give us 100% creative control. They did not try to get in the way or try to make any inputs, so that’s what I loved about working with them,” Cabrera said.
A small team is what the company stands on, and Cabrera feels that too many opinions can obstruct the true vision of the brand. Cabrera explained that each collection name and theme has a purpose; their work can not begin without a concept in mind.
“I’ve learned to not share my ideas with my team, not because I don’t respect their opinion, but it’ll throw me off when I’m in the middle of designing,” Cabrera said.
Combining different types of art is how Cabrera embraces his culture and explores his love for his artistic projects. The designer wished to be a painter, but he found a way to support local artists. In May, he hosted an art exhibition by Michoacán artist Aldair Dosmil. Musician Nuevo Vuelo played the event and custom Gente Fina pieces were on display.
Cabrera hopes to work with artists that can design the interior of his signature varsity jackets. Each artist could design a different pattern, and the chain of support between Latine artists can continue in Chicago.
New designs can be seen at New York Fashion Week in 2024. Cabrera won a spot in fashion week after winning Durango’s designer contest. He will join the Fashion Designers of Latin America in New York and create on an international level.
“We appreciate the support, the love that they’ve been showing. I’m gonna continue to make cool stuff for us, for our people and representing the Latinos,” Cabrera said.
Header photographed by Jana Simovic