Chiara-Livia and Mi Gerer are making some serious waves. The sisters are the creatives behind Havanah Jesus, a fashion skate apparel line that is also a film and tv production company, which also produces events and parties. With a “cross between urban life style and holy imagery,” the images have a lifestyle brand down pat. Oh, and it’s pretty awesome that they’re based in our beloved Greenpoint, too.
I’m particularly psyched about the idea of two sisters running a business, since I’ve been working towards similar goals with my best sister (and only sister). I had the pleasure of catching up with Chiara and Mi to discuss designing and sisterhood.
Chiara: Havanah Jesus started with a jacket we embroidered as an outfit for the Secret Garden Party festival. At the time we had just finished our A levels in Cambridge and I was about to go off study Journalism in London and Mi was going to move to New York to study film.
Our grandmother is a Brazilian painter and we grew up surrounded by her paintings of saints and naked mulatas (which is pretty much all Havanah is about). Brazilians are very religious and so are Bavarians and the Catholic convent school we went to.
Our dad is based in Portugal for work so we partly grew up in Lisbon too. There I stumbled upon the first holy Mary for our jackets in a knitting shop. We also have strong Italian roots, so all in all we enjoyed a very catholic upbringing influenced by all these cultures…
Mi: Havanah Jesus started with making Jackets for festivals. First Chiara did one just for fun with a Holy Mary, back in 2009. I was doing film and photography and always wanted to start a production company.
And events, cause we love throwing parties and thought if we have so much passion doing it – we should do it professionally.
I never really did fashion but I worked in film and editing, etc.
Also, our Brazilian family is very religious. My grandmother is a painter so we grew up with all these paintings, she would basically only paint angels and tropical naked mulatas, lots of boobs paintings and nakedness, but not in a vulgar way.
Chi has always been painting.
The name Havanah Jesus popped into my head when I was walking down Allen Street in the Lower East side, it was a very strange moment. We have never even been to Havana, Cuba. A year later we started embroidering more jackets and we filmed a 70s short film and that was in 2012, that is when we officially started Havanah Jesus.
GP: What is it like working together as sister? Do you have any advice for siblings, or close friends working together?
(My sister and I started an alternative wedding blog, and we’re trying to get it off the ground).
Mi: We have completely different opinions. But we really respect and listen to each other. It can sometimes take forever to take decisions. It’s easier to schedule time together since we are both night active creatures, so that works well.
Importance with siblings is there is always trust. You are not going to get betrayed so easily. Also we don’t take things personally we understand that we have different tastes.
I mean you can disagree and have bad things happening between siblings, but if you lets say have a company with your friend or partner (who are not your family) sometimes the bad things that happen are crucial and also forgiving is much harder. You know family is family.
Basically one has an idea and then we keep shaping the idea together like a tennis game for example she throws me the ball with an idea, I catch it add some stuff and throw it back at her and so on, if you know what I mean.
Chiara: Every pair of sisters and relationship is different, and in our case it is really great how our personalities and tastes complement each other, we often disagree in the first stages of a new project but persist & develop it to a point where we are both are very happy with the result and appeal to a wider group by merging our ideas. So, hopefully the end product appeals to a wider group.
My advice for/to other sisters collaborating out there is theres very few people out there who you can exchange ideas with brainstorm and be honest with with no fear of judgement, love, patience and understanding that a sister/family member that knows you and your strengths and faults best (sparing you from ego fights and power struggles, embrace those blood ties! Create beautiful magic). Our dad said there is no trust harder to break than a family blood tie! Worship it!
GP: Besides apparel, you also have documentaries and films! What is the Havanah Jesus philosophy or lifestyle? How are all of these awesome things connected?
Mi: Yes we do. We also do music videos and right now we are working a lot on our Havanah Jesus television platform – we want to create more videos on interviewing people and finding out about their stories, etc.
Basically we also think that these days everything is connected, media fashion, music , photographs, films ( especially if you want to survive in New York). It is all a form of art and we like to express it in different ways. Also, we actually get a lot of inspiration from the Bible.
Chiara: Each thing can kind of represent or support the other one.
Mi once told me many successful people have not just pulled on one string but ventured into all directions but work hard and be persisted and then one or a few of those things worked out eventually… you just got to believe in what you’re doing and your idea. We all have our talents in different areas and several areas of interest. Why not venture out and make Havanah more than just one thing? Because it certainly can be. Only by trying will you find what you’re really made of. Life is an experiment, don’t get discouraged. All experiences are good and part of our path of self discovery.
GP: What are some of your favorite experiences from starting Havanah Jesus?
Mi: Haha, when I first got my business cards and I felt so cool and ridiculous to give them away whenever I hit the club, whoever asked me for my number…
All the love and messages we have been receiving, all the support really means a lot to us and helps us to keep going.
Chiara: The journey in itself and the big support and love our friends have shown us in general. One particular experience: bumping into somebody I don’t even know, in our gear at Union Square, that was the first time I thought: “Wow, I can’t believe I produced this piece and it is loved!”
GP: What is your future vision for Havanah Jesus?
Mi: Affordable unique clothing. More HJ TV videos so people can hear about new musicians, artists and personalities of our era and music videos. And collaboration with other people through events, videos, or clothing.
And a shop in New York City one day.
Chiara: Wherever the winds may blow us, we’re open for whatever good things come into our lives, cease your opportunities and learn from mistakes. Don’t forget to have fun. And never forget the love for what you do. Keep the big picture in mind.
I believe in the destiny the “Havanah Jesus” has foreseen for us and will follow this path as long as it leeds us. Its been the greatest journey thus far!
GP: Describe your perfect day in Brooklyn.
Mi: Going to gigs and the frozen margaritas at Calexico, and that frozen margarita with grenadine at Enid’s (so addicting, plus I never get brain freeze ), McCarren Park, Beco (Brazilian food when I really miss Brazil), Northside Festival, The Gutter for bowling and shows, Open Air Cinema, thrift shopping at Beacon’s Closet. We like going to one dollar shops for inspiration. Matchless for foosball plus we love watching soccer!
Chiara: There’s always something going on, I mean its New York City! I love going to my favorite local spots like the Gutter, No Name, Enid’s, Matchless, McCarren, Honky Tonk and bumping into all the beautiful souls that make Brooklyn our home.
Follow Havanah Jesus on Instagram.