Spanish and More Spanish
I began learning Spanish in junior high. And as is usually the case, I didn't REALLY learn Spanish. I just learned a few useful phrases that sounded good when I wanted to make an impression. I did, however, come away with a good understanding of how the vowels and consonants worked. This would prove to be an important stepping stone to ACTUALLY learning Spanish later in my adulthood.
By the time I was 27 years old, I found myself residing in a place where people were from all walks of life, with many being from Latin America. Soon, some of my best friends were from places like Colombia, Mexico and Cuba. I began to dig deep into Spanish grammar, refining my understanding of English grammar along the way. My learning was reinforced by daily interaction with Spanish-speakers, hours of telenovelas, and reading Spanish language books. Before I knew it, I could speak, read and write in Spanish pretty proficiently. From time to time, people ask me how long it took me to become proficient. And really, I never can truly answer that question. Because I was so thoroughly enjoying what I was learning, I never really notice how much time went by. I also did not stop at just learning the language. I learned about history, as it pertained to Spain and various Spanish-speaking countries. I learned about the people and the vastly different backgrounds from which they come. I took my new language and its culture to heart. I made it a very integral part of me...a part of the prism through which I now see the world.
Getting Into Apparel
In 2013 my oldest son Thomas came to me and asked if I would be interested in working with him to bring to life a clothing brand he had designed. After taking a few days to look over his designs and everything he had put into his work, I decided to work with him. Part of me was simply a father wanting to help his son, and part of me was very impressed that my son was dreaming big and taking steps to realize his dream. So we got trademarks, we got visas, and we got plane tickets to China. Yep...CHINA! We attended the China Import and Export Fair and visited apparel factories in China. Over time, we learned volumes about apparel manufacturing as well as importing and exporting. Eventually I established GSJ Enterprises,LLC as my company. To be clear...the brand I worked on with my son is separate and different from Chica Fina, but I credit this work with my son for charting my current path with Chica Fina.
Chica Fina Is Born
About two years before my initial trip to China, I ran across a T-shirt that was part of the "Black Girls Rock" campaign. I was struck by the expressiveness and empowerment of that phrase..."Black Girls Rock". I began to imagine a way to capture the energy of those words...a way to convey that same feeling of empowerment and confidence...but for women of all shades and backgrounds. I wanted an expression that would do this fashionably while wrapping it in the phonetic beauty of the Spanish language. And so...Chica Fina was born. I had fifty t-shirts made with the Chica Fina logo across the front. However, I didn't immediately know what to do with them. It was not until my subsequent trip to China, and my tours of the apparel factories that it all began to occur to me.
While literally translated, Chica Fina means "Fine Girl". However, colloquially it means much more. A Chica Fina is a woman who is refined, sophisticated, and comfortable in her own skin. Chica Fina is fashion, but it is more. It is class, it is a celebration of women...it is a movement.