Havana, Cuba is infused with an alluring energy that will captivate one's soul after a visit for those lucky enough to experience it.
The Caribbean island has attracted many due to it's colorful and vibrant culture, leaving travelers longing for more. From the delicious cuisine, inspiring locals, and fashion trends, more and more hidden gems are being discovered.
Behold Clandestina. The company is the first Cuban fashion line to sell online. Despite the United States' tough exportation restrictions, the hip brand is taking matters into their own hands and shipping their t-shirts worldwide. We caught up with Idania Del Rio, co-founder of Clandestina who talked about the design process behind the line, the inspiration and more.
Tell us a little bit about Clandestina.
Clandestina is the first fashion brand commercializing Cuban design. We are female entrepreneurs and artists trying to run a business in a very vulnerable and transformative market here in Cuba. We are building a very coherent and consistent brand aligned with the Cuban context – a very high, socially responsible context. Cuba is a very different country with super controversial issues. Here everything seems wired. Making fashion is more than weird. But we believe in sustainable fashion, building design and art through very local and human processes.
Cuba now is a land with a mix of hope and pessimism. Trump’s new legislation is not helping us in the near future to keep boosting our business. The decrease of American tourism to the island is a terrible challenge that we are now facing. But, at the same time, Cuba is changing and is giving to the new generation an opportunity to grow their projects, small businesses, and to make a living. Above this, the temperament of the Cuban people is special. We never give up. We are “keep going” people. We see the positive side of everything and do whatever we must do to overcome the obstacles. Because of that, Clandestina goes online. It’s a way to overcome difficulties and an example of never giving up and finding a way.
Where did the name come from?
Here in Cuba everything is clandestine. When we launched the brand in 2015 we were the first doing this. And did it in a very clandestine, but legal, way. Other inspiration of the name is how we, as Cubans living in a socialist country, feel in the global fashion industry. We are really clandestine people. We do up-cycling out of necessity, not because it is trending. We create a brand because we need to express ourselves. And this is a very clandestine temperament.
You currently have six different T-shirt designs, are you looking into venturing into other types of garments? Sweatshirts, bags, etc?
We love graphic design, because this is our background. And we do graphics because we need to express ideas, and we need to tell the story of what is going on in Cuba: what the young people are thinking, their hopes, their dreams, their problems. Clandestina is a fashion brand that’s done fashion since 2015. In our store in Havana we sell bags, prints, skirts, tank tops, shorts, pants, and more. Most of them are under the special collection called Vintrashe (Vintage+Trash). This collection is 100% up-cycling. And it’s the second line of clothing we are going to launch pretty soon online.
We’ve found a very good collaborator in North Carolina. They are already working with second-hand materials and they know pretty well the process of working with this kind of textile. We have exported our design and manufacturing processes and we already have the first proofs. So Clandestina Vintrashe will be available very soon online! Can you elaborate on the design process for Clandestina?
Basically, our process is very connected with our reality. What I mean is that we lack resources (textiles, threads, needles, machinery) and scarcity is law for us in terms of production. This has a very high impact on the designers. They need to be more immersed in real life. They go to the local markets and they have to look/find/discover materials. The thinking is different. The process starts in the street, in the local market. Then comes the computer, production facilities, and at the end the client.
Graphic designs are very linked to the reality. There is a serious lack of content here in Cuba. There are not contemporary art and design goods that you can consume. No high brands (or too expensive), no good access to the internet. We are responsible for bringing this content to the people. So we think about what kind of content people want to consume here in Cuba, and what kind of content we can bring to a global market that the people have never consumed before.
Do you feel like you are paving the way for other Cuban artists who are trying to get their work seen by the world?