Clandestina sold his first t-shirt just over four years ago. At that time Havana was going through a period of effervescence that had many of us dreaming of important economic changes ahead.
In the end, the picture did not change as expected, but did at least leave behind several interesting projects, such as Clandestina: the first independent Cuban fashion brand. Today, it’s impossible to walk around Havana without spotting some of its daring accessories.
They started with their little studio store in Old Havana, with a young team of talented people trying to do something different in their hometown. Led by co-founders Idania del Río and Leire Fernández, its main products are accessories: t-shirts, shirts, bags and caps, but they also sell posters, stickers, keychains, and more.
Their designs are original, modern and loaded with a keen sense of humor, a very Cuban attribute. Since it launched, the store has elegantly commented on the modern social situation of the country. Their audience, both foreigners and Cubans, have identified with the fresh and catchy phrases printed on their clothes and posters. Some of the most popular include: “99% diseño cubano” (99% Cuban design), “Actually, I’m in Havana“, “Nada es Perfecto” (Nothing is Perfect) or “Se Acabó el Drama” (The Drama is Over).
Its rapid growth has been helped by interesting community initiatives, responsible ecological awareness and an openly inclusive policy. Its production systems are sustainable, taking advantage of recycled materials, as with the Vintrashe label, which uses the fashionable concept of ‘upcycling’, taking existing materials and giving them a new use. Their clothes can be a bit expensive for locals, so items are discounted for Cubans.
In the community Clandestina often hosts big parties that spill out of the store and into the streets. Here, designers and artists mingle with neighborhood residents. The energy of these parties is legendary.
Products are available through its online store (clandestina.co), and the designs continue to be Cuban, but are manufactured in the United States. Perhaps the most remarkable feature of Clandestina is the amount of international interest they have aroused, capturing the attention of giants of the fashion world such as Vogue.
As a result anyone can now buy a piece of Cuba wherever they are in the world. But if you are on the island and are interested in what is happening in the micro-world of Cuban fashion, Clandestina is a mandatory visit. There’s no better or more trendy opportunity to avoid buying the now-omnipresent “Che” t-shirt, which makes this an even better recommendation.