Latin Fusion-wear Clothes from ‘Havana on the Hudson’ cross the borders

Union City entrepreneur Juan Carlos Rojas has just launched the next wave in his Nuevo-Latino Fusion line of T-shirts, which have become a booming phenomenon on the West Coast, as well as in Mexico and soon Puerto Rico.

Rojas’ Latin Fusion wear, which made its debut in early 2004, celebrates the American story through the eyes of first generation Latino-Americans, and has kept a loyal clientele base that spans the country.

“It creates a sense that we’re all in this together, and bringing ourselves to the top,” said Rojas. “It’s empowering to wear.”

Since its inception, Nuevo-Latino Fusion Wear, which is manufactured through Rojas’ online start up company Havana on the Hudson (H.O.T.H.), has become all the rage with apparel buyers in California, Mexico and Puerto Rico.

Rojas and partner Carlos Rodriguez, who runs their operation Miami, are in the midst of negotiations to further expand their venue to Latin American countries.

“We get daily orders, and I send half of the shipment of shirts to Miami,” said Rojas. “We operate out of both locations.”

The next wave

The purpose of H.O.T.H.’s Latino-Fusion Wear is to celebrate the emergence of Latino culture in the mainstream lifestyle of America. Seeing as the Latino population is the fastest growing in the nation, many first-generation Latinos like raised here, like Rojas, have a different spin on American culture. Some of the new designs further reflect that emergent change of the Latino demographic in the country.

One of the designs entitled “Estamos Unidos,” which plays with the Spanish translation of the United States, depicts a map of the U.S. with the names of Latin American countries substituting for the states.

“We changed the shirts to be more emblematic of the direction we’re going,” said Rojas. “We have our subtle differences, but we’re celebrating the Spanish language we all speak.”

Of course, America is a melting pot of other cultures, as well which greatly influence each other. In that same spirit, Rojas and Rodriguez have also represented the Latino fusion with other cultures.

An example would be H.O.T.H.’s take on the symbolism of the Chinese yin-yang. The shirt design titled “Latino Yin-Yan” depicts a domino with its like configuration of the traditional symbol to demonstrate the Latino sense of balance.

There is also new design depicting the Latino-Irish influence, which delivers a rather explicit bilingual pun, but all in good humor.

“The longer we’re in this country, the more mixed we get,” said Rojas. “We just recently introduced a lot of these on the web site.”

Rojas and Rodriguez unveiled this new line of Latino-Fusion Wear in February of this year as part of their spring/summer line of 2005.

“When we first started, we were coming from a much more Cuban perspective,” said Rojas. “Now all the new designs we’re coming up with are for any Latino in the United States. The designs are not specified toward any group.”

Many of Rojas’ original concepts and designs are still available for purchase as well.

Expanding their empire

In addition to their booming web site and select stores around Hudson County, H.O.T.H. has now taken their line through more physical venues including trade shows throughout California and Las Vegas, where buyers from around the country and abroad have taken a shine to the colorful spins.

“In our case, when people see the line, it’s kind of something new, and people are excited about it,” said Rojas. One of their latest tours took them through California’s Magic Show, which is one of the biggest fashion conventions in the nation.

“Buyers from all over the world from different companies and owners of retail businesses come here looking for new products,” said Rojas. “It’s like an industry open house.”

During the California convention, they picked up 10 new accounts, and are now also available in Mexico and soon Puerto Rico.

“Mexican buyers bought out the store; we basically sold out of all our inventory that we brought,” said Rojas. “They are really interested in getting this product into the Puerto Rican market.”

During the month of April, H.O.T.H. picked up six to eight new locations to carry Nuevo-Latino Fusion Wear, and the momentum keeps going. New orders for more inventories keep coming in both through the conventions and on the original web site.

“Right now it’s still just as active on the web site,” said Rojas. “We’re getting hit on both sides, and have at least quadrupled our sales.”

H.O.T.H. is developing a heavy representation on the West Coast, despite the fact that they are an East Coast-based operation.

Their next endeavor is to build their representation at their home base on the east.

“We’re going to get aggressive here in Jersey,” said Rojas. “We’re hoping to carry the line in stores on Bergenline Avenue, New York City and Miami.”

Rojas and Rodriguez will be attending their next convention in Miami this month.

“I have fun with this, and we’re very hands-on with everything we do ourselves,” said Rojas.

National attention

Since their inception, H.O.T.H. has been starting to gather more attention through some of the best known national Latin-American publications such as Urban Latino, which described their line as Guerilla Wearfare, and a possible article coming up with Latina Magazine.

“We have good representation, but we’re still under the radar on the East Coast,” said Rojas. “We keep picking up more locations.”

The shirts are priced between $22 and $24, and are available at The web site also list local retailers in Hudson County that carry the line.


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