Based on the Havana hen designer Idania Del Rio’s ink runs out of screen-printed T-shirt, probably the rest of Cuba have too much. When she needed to buy a button, she found enough in ten different stores. And when she wanted to send an email, she had to walk a mile from her independent design house Clandestina to the nearest public WiFi hotspot. However, in spite of material shortages and lack of access to the Internet – a common constraint on operating a business under national socialism – Clandestina has become the first Cuban brand to launch an online store anywhere in the world, including the United States.
Small fashion brands celebrated this landmark achievement as the relationship between the United States and Cuba deteriorated again as a result of allegations of the mythical “sonic attack” against U.S. government employees in Havana. In September, the United States withdrew more than half of its diplomats and warned Americans not to travel to Cuba as part of Donald Trump’s abandonment of his predecessor’s historic reconciliation.
Del Rio and her business partner Leire Fernández launched Clandestina in 2015, and a few years later Cuban President Raúl Castro liberalized the private sector legal. The whitewashed townhouse in Old Havana, Cuba’s first independent design house, proved the wave of creativity and entrepreneurship swept through the capital. The tongue marks of these two trademarks, often printed on recyclable T-shirts and handbags, express a self-determined attitude toward a new generation.
In the past year, they have focused their attention on bringing the brand to an international audience. Given the Cuban export market, the little feat blocked by the United States blockade is almost non-existent. However, the embargo, although restricting the import of goods to the United States, does not prohibit services. DelRío exploits this anomaly to solve system problems by digitally uploading the Clandestina design to an affiliated South Carolina manufacturer who prints them on the T-shirt of a Wrap (Global Certified Responsible Production) accredited supplier in Nicaragua On, and shipped to the world. In a country where the concept of a native brand is still forming, Clandestina ambitions.
Shopping options in Cuba are limited. State-owned shops sell cheap imports – polyester dresses and plastic shoes. More popular are the “secret shops” found behind beauty salons or private homes that sell fast-track smuggling from abroad. Like other Cuban-style Cubans, Del Rio looks for elusive antiquities in the government’s “rag shop,” buying second-hand clothing in large quantities from the United States and Canada.
“You never got what you want,” Del Rio explained, purchasing new ink from Mexico (for weeks, they can only print in black). “Cubans have a deep sense of fashion, want the latest trend, but lack the contemporary brand.”
The island was launched in 2015, followed by the arrival of the style blog and Garbos, the country’s first fashion magazine. Robertiko Ramos, designer and costume designer and tattoo artist who resembles high fashion items such as CeliaLedón, is changing the conversation around clothing. But young Cubans, like young people from anywhere in the world, want something that is affordable, easy to use and popular, and few of them.
Despite such requests, issuing a label – not to mention dealing with e-commerce – requires tedious red tape and sections and punitive import laws. The fashion industry suffered from the lack of textile manufacturing industry, the textile industry has been disappeared after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Derio, who studied graphic design abroad and worked abroad for many years, raised funds from friends to launch Clandestina; as the sole cash economy, all payments must be up front. She said: “At first, we did not know how to do marketing.” There’s no real advertising channel, so let’s put a free alcohol party. We tried to gather locals, friends and followers and they started to stop. “They now host 20,000 people each year and other designers are already getting closer to the Clandestina team and want to follow their footsteps,” said Del Rio. “We’re really happy now because that’s a big step for all of us. “From Cuba to the world, why not? We think this is possible and necessary. “