A group of entrepreneurs have defied all odds to become the first Cuban team to take their brand Clandestina, online. The clothing label founded by independent Cuban designer Idania Del Rio in 2015, launched its online collection as a way to share uniquely Cuban style with the world beyond the walls of its flagship shop in Old Havana.
This marks a historic first for Cuba, where poor internet access, limited resources, and isolation from global markets have largely held back entrepreneurial teams looking to share their products with the world.
“The Clandestina brand has always been one about succeeding against the odds and overcoming the seemingly impossible,” begins Del Rio. “With warmer relations between the U.S. and Cuba and increasing internet access, we’re now able to do what was never possible. For the first time in 60 years, there’s a legal way for Americans to buy Cuban-designed apparel, right from their home.”
Clandestina has minted a brand by re-screening, re-designing, and reworking used t-shirts–many of which are discarded from the U.S. with faded brands still showing. Their in-your-face, against-the-odds graphic t-shirts are worn as statements throughout the island by locals and visitors alike. The independent shop has become a must-visit destination in Old Havana, welcoming over 20,000 visitors each year. They’ve steadily gained popularity internationally as well, even from President Barack Obama. When visiting Cuba in 2016, the President referenced the brand on live Cuban television when he joked to the audience, asking where he could find a t-shirt for his daughters Sasha and Malia, knowing full well the answer was Clandestina.
Current legislation in the United States makes the importation of goods from Cuba difficult and costly but allows for independent Cuban designers to provide their design services to U.S. customers. All online products will be designed at Clandestina’s studio in Havana and digitally uploaded to American manufacturers who will print, produce, and ship the finished product to U.S. and other international customers.
“Manufacturing clothing in Cuba and shipping to the U.S. is impossible at the moment, as shipping is heavily restricted,” said Clandestina co-founder Leire Fernandez. “It’s a true international collaboration that makes our Cuban designs now available to the world.”