Starting Up in Cuba Today: Clandestine in Broad Daylight
In Old Havana, a startup named “Clandestina (Clandestine)” catches everybody’s eyes. Idania del Rio, one of the founders of this project, points out that her idea aims at showing her personal opinion of what design can be and should be. This young entrepreneur attended the meeting with president Obama and she now talks to PanamericanWorld about her methods to make a success of “Clandestina”.
How did the project come up?
The whole project was based on my idea and the discussions I used to hold with Leyre Fernandez, who is my partner and also manages the project. She’s a specialist in creative industries and I’m a designer, so we used to spend hours talking about the things we should advertise and produce. That’s the reason why Clandestina is a design project that tries to agglutinate the work of young Cuban designers. I’m the coordinator and head designer. We’re in charge of creating, producing and marketing those designs. It works as a store, workshop, gallery and studio.
What do you make of the meeting with president Obama?
It was quite interesting to listen to president Obama’s point of view and the way the US economy works, since it’s very focused and strongly linked to entrepreneurs. They are a key element to that economy, and I believe that there are many entrepreneurs in Cuba, the Cuban people are very creative and that could be an interesting and prosperous base. I think that all those people could make good use of that creativeness, and it would be helpful for the country’s economy and the people as well.
Why were you summoned to that meeting?
Several training programs were launched after the opening of the US Embassy in Cuba. I participated in one of them, which was especially conceived for women that were managing their own businesses and that’s why I established a relation with the Association of Small Businesses in the United States. I later visited several US cities, where I met people that were running similar projects. It was an enriching trip and that’s the reason why the Embassy already knew who we were. They thought it was an interesting project and decided to invite us.
Do you think that those meetings can have a positive impact on Cuban entrepreneurs?
I do think so. If the Cuban authorities understand that –and they apparently do- as a possibility to revitalize the country’s economy, it could be very good. Self-employed workers have shown great potential when it comes to providing services that the State has maintained over the years, but entrepreneurs with small businesses can do it with higher quality. There are key industries that have to be controlled and managed by the State, but there are many initiatives that could be perfectly developed by freelance workers. Moreover, creative industries related to such activities as design or the development of web apps have the potential to generate value and incomes to the society. Any people related to those fields could have a great future in Cuba, depending on the regulations and opportunities to communicate, exchange and exploit the work.
You have personal and collective exhibits. How is Clandestine connected to that?
There is a lot of my works in Clandestine, in different ways. We have here some of the exhibition pieces I’ve created. We have, for instance, a series entitled “Remedies against Insomnia”, from an expo held at Factoria Habana. Any piece conceived and produced by a designer can be marketed. So Clandestine works as a store, a Cultural Goods Fund, and we can sell what we do.
What can people buy here?
They can purchase pullovers, agendas, bags, pillowslips, toys, posters and almost everything you can find in local stores, of course, modified with our style. It’s a wide range of products.
We’re going to launch a collection of hats in collaboration with some girls that recently got their degree at the Higher Institute of Art; we’re also working on some projects for the Design Biennale.
Moreover, we’re developing a line named Vintrashe, with recycled clothes. The brand is a term created by combining Vintage and trash, because the recycling culture has gained momentum in Cuba and overseas. That’s why we decided that it would be good to work on that line, since we deconstruct recycled clothes and we redesign it. Each piece is different, each one requires a different making and printing process, but the concept is very interesting. So far, we have undershirts, miniskirts, shorts, bags, a pretty casual fashion line, it’s not formal at all.
Do you describe yourself as an entrepreneur?
I see myself as a designer. As a person that constantly deals with everyday life. Startups entail starting a new journey every day, I’m identified with this term, and many people in Cuba embrace it too.
By Beatriz Rosales.
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