A new “Alto” spin on a well-traveled classic

A new “Alto” spin on a well-traveled classic

Story and photos by Robin Elisabeth Kilmer

Joan Balbuena, a local boutique owner, will debut a new line of hand-crafted chacabanas, the classic four-pocketed shirt.
Joan Balbuena, a local
boutique owner, will debut
a new line of hand-crafted
chacabanas, the classic
four-pocketed shirt.

The chacabana is a well-traveled shirt with unknown origins.

It has gone as far as Africa where teachers from Cuban popularized them.

Where they are from originally is hotly contested.

Are they Cuban? Philippine? Dominican?

There is a chacabana, however, whose origins are in Northern Manhattan.

Joan Balbuena, of Joan Fashion at 207th Street and Post Avenue, is launching his first clothing line this September.

The star of the show is his version of the chacabana—but with a twist.

Balbuena’s chacabanas will feature the same pleated alforzas and four patch pockets, and be just as comfortable.

“There’s this idea that chacabanas are for older people. I’ve made them more fitted so that they’ll be more appealing to young people as well,” he explained.

Balbuena’s tapered chacabanas also come in different colors and patterns.

Joan Fashion opened eight years ago, and two years ago, Joan opened Lounge Couture. Lounge Couture is located at 207th Street and Broadway and managed by Joan’s wife, Solanlly.

Both stores will be selling his new line, which also includes classic dress pants.

Balbuena never studied design, but learned enough through his work at Joan Fashion. After seeing different fashions coming and going through his store for so long, designing his own line seemed like a natural next step.

Being familiar with the needs of his customers was helpful in steering him towards designing the chacabanas.

“People are always looking for something different,” he noted.

He hopes the chacabanas will be an intergenerational favorite, appropriate for formal and casual occasions.

And he also has something in mind for all the women out there who enjoy borrowing their boyfriend’s button-up shirts, but feel that their selection of lumberjack shirts is limited: a line of dress-style fitted chacabanas for women.

While the budding designer mostly works alone when crafting his ideas, he said he depends on feedback from his cousin Clarina, who works at Joan Fashion.

“We have the same tastes, so I mostly provide feedback about color,” she said.

Having a cousin with a good sense of fashion is always helpful when looking for new clothes.

“I love it,” she smiled. “It’s great to go shopping with him.”

Joan’s Chacabanas, which are hand-made in the Dominican Republic, each cost $150, and pants cost $110. To showcase the new fashion line, there will be a Joan Fashion’s Fashion Show and New Line Launch this Thurs., Sep. 6th from 7 p.m. – 8 p.m. at Umbrella at 440 West 202nd Street and 10th Avenue.

For more information, please call Joan Fashion at 212.567.6822.

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