Juan Carlos and his son Daniel are never too far from a warm sea breeze and ocean view. They have the good fortune of calling the island of Puerto Rico home. Specifically, San Juan, a city simultaneously energized and laidback with a unique fusion of Spanish and American influence that seems to permeate everything from the architecture to the fashion. The pair have spent the last years creating a shopping destination in Euromoda. A massive 7000 sq ft flagship store and three more smaller locations dotted around town. They pride themselves on a relaxed ambiance and elevated experience from the moment you park to when you leave with your luxury wear. We sat down together with the father & son duo to talk about what it’s like to live in paradise and how this collision of cultures informs everything they do.
Let’s go back to the beginning. How did Euromoda start?
J: My father started the business back in the early 70s. At that time, it was all about the polyester and more American fashion. But with his European background from his father and being raised in Cuba, he saw more potential in natural fibers and European fashion, and he was always attracted to this. He wanted to distance himself from that so he started introducing brands from Europe. In 1979 he was already carrying Zegna. It was an interesting start, but he believed in it and he brought a lot of European high-end brands back. He did this because there were always people that travel and are exposed to these brands, and it is not a big market but it’s a small interesting niche in the market. We have been building it now for 40-plus years.
Have you always lived in Puerto Rico?
J: Both my parents were born in Cuba; my father’s father came from Barcelona. My father actually left Cuba in the 60’s after the revolution. He lived a few years in Spain, in Barcelona and then moved to California where I was born in Los Angeles. We moved back to Puerto Rico in the late 60s and started a life there.
D: I was born in Puerto Rico and basically raised in the mall. Just like my father who was raised around the store. It was something that always felt meant to be, to be working here. My parents tried to push me away to do something different. So, I did. I studied in New York, and graduated with a biomedical engineering degree. That was something completely different. After that, I just fell into the business, and it never felt as if I missed an opportunity.
That’s interesting you’ve both lived away and then returned. What keeps drawing you back to San Juan?
J: I think for me it is the culture here. It’s all about family. You get the same thing a little in the Latin communities back in the States, but here even the friends you have are close-knit friends, the community is tight. You know, we love our traditions, we love our island. Of course, it’s also a beautiful island. I live where you want to have your vacation. Incredible beaches, weather, people, food – it is amazing.
D: I agree. The lifestyle is different here. We are always trying to get together, outside of work. It’s all about family, but also my friends are my friends and my friend’s parents are our friends, so it’s always a growing family. I think it’s a closer bond than you’d get in other places. And when I came back, I stumbled into growing the business and contributing more to the family business, it means more than working anywhere else or growing another business.
There’s a similarity between your backgrounds and San Juan as a city, it has this beautiful fusion of influences from all around it.
J: Yes, it’s a mix of Afro Caribbean culture and mainly Spanish, a bit of the States, so it’s precisely that, a fusion. It shows in the music, the food, I even see it in the courage of the people here. Puerto Rico has gone through, at least in my lifetime, a lot of challenges. Hurricanes, earthquakes and it’s always amazing to see that inner strength and that resilience to come back from these very disastrous events and how we help each other and we endure. Like with Maria recently, you know we got through it because of that community strength.
D: Then the other part is the food, from the very typical Creole food to the more sophisticated European influence. You definitely see Spanish influence in that sort of tapas style. In the restaurant, we will order a lot of small, local dishes. There’s a lot of sharing involved, even in the style of living here. We live with our families.
Do you feel those influences in the store too?
D: I think it’s a little bit more European because for example whenever we go to Europe, to Spain, to Italy we will be greeted almost immediately with a coffee and cookies or something to go along with it. So it’s always that few steps extra they take in order for you to feel comfortable and we try to give that experience as well. We have a fully stocked coffee bar, but we also have whiskey and wine, an in-house tailor in case they need something very last minute. I’m not sure where that comes from though, we have taken these things from all around the world to create something we would like ourselves and to create for our community.
J: Yes, we really built this store around the idea that when you come here, you will leave happy. We even have a full bathroom with a shower in case our customer comes at five o’clock and really needs something for an event that evening and doesn’t have time to go home. Two weeks after we opened, we got a surgeon who just came out of the operating room. He had to go to a gala with his wife, he lived about an hour away from the hospital and did not have enough time. He was going to get killed by his wife if he didn’t make it, so he called us and said ‘Listen, I need a tuxedo, a shirt, shoes, I need everything’. He knew about the shower and asked if could use it too. He came in, freshened himself up, we dressed him, and he made it on time. We probably saved his marriage.
How about in the style there, what are the influences?
J: Yes, it’s a mix. Again, we have that tendency, on some occasions we like to be flamboyant and bright, you know, colorful and light. I think that’s very Latin. Then there’s the European side which is more classic, more subdued. That part we lean into for business. Business-wise it’s more that European influence, everything is more monochromatic or small prints. It’s a nice mix because we get the best of both worlds. Some days you can be classic and sometimes very bold.
D: Yeah we like to go to parties and make a statement, you know. It’s easier for women, for men it can be harder to dress up like that. For every 20 stores for them, there are only a handful for us. So we definitely like to bring both kinds of options, so they can stand out too. Bring that pop of color.
Is that your own personal style?
J: Yes, everything we have in the store is influenced by our personal styles. If we don’t like it ourselves, we couldn’t sell to our customers. I like a little bit of classic, but also like that pop of color.
I see you’re both wearing prints today.
J: Yes, flowers today. It’s nice to influence our customers in that way. Showing them that you can wear something more bold and feel comfortable. That it can be masculine. Sometimes there is that Latino machismo, but it’s something that has faded. It’s not as strong, but sometimes the idea still lingers here.
Is there a style that feels universally and distinctly ‘San Juan’?
J: There are some fabrics. It’s a texture look, you know, that tropical linen? Like the wool, silk and linen blend. It’s a look you just associate with the tropics. Unless it’s for important business, we don’t really go for that flat wool. It’s funny. Even if it’s very light, it could be only 190 grams. And people will still be hesitant because they associate it with traditional heavier suits. That texture gives a suit more interest too, people like that.
D: Puerto Rico and San Juan, it is very casual. You see a lot of people go out and just wear a pair of chinos and short-sleeve shirts throughout the whole year, and then sometimes they will wear a suit or lightweight jackets. Our weather is very hot and humid, so you want to have the lightest clothes possible. But sometimes people will dress up for more special occasions, for a concert or maybe a restaurant.
Yes, you must be experts in staying cool by now. What’s your advice dealing with the summer heat?
J: Clothing-wise it’s about having very light fabrics. Cottons or linens. Even knits if they’re soft and very light. The t-shirt knit is actually becoming very big for summer. Also half lining in the suit. Really, here it is just best to stay out of the sun in summer. At night or early in the morning it cools down and it’s nice to walk then. If you’re here on vacation, we always say it’s a good idea to be near the water.
Do you get asked much for tips from people visiting often?
J: Oh yes, where to stay, where to eat. We love to eat, we’re foodies. There’s shopping, there is history. Old San Juan was built 500 years ago. Only three miles out of the city there are small islands to explore too.
I’m glad we asked you guys for tips for our city guide then. Thanks so much for your time and your recommendations.
D: No problem, it was a pleasure!
J: You’re very welcome. We hope to see you soon here in Puerto Rico.
If you live nearby or want to visit the island, don’t miss our city guide for more tips from the Carlos family.
Next time you are in San Juan, be sure to drop by or book an appointment with Juan or Daniel.