By Mimi Whitefield
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) “Clandestina” was founded in 2015 by Cuban designer Idania del Rio. The company has a knack for finding its way into market niches that haven’t been penetrated by Cuban products in decades.
Clandestina, which bills its cheeky T-shirts as “Designed in Cuba. Printed in the USA,” became the first Cuban brand to launch a website for U.S. sales in late October, just in time for its first experience with Cyber Monday and the Christmas retail season.
Since then, the Clandestina website has had more than 18,500 visits, 350-plus orders, and sold more than 400 T-shirts at $28 a pop.
It even ran an ugly Christmas sweater promotion that featured a dinosaur chasing a mojito and the Spanglish message: “Relajate asere (Chillax, dude). It’s Christmas.”
For a small Cuban private enterprise, those are great numbers, said independent Cuban designer Idania del Rio. “We’re super happy. This is a dream we’ve been working on for two years.”
Founded in 2015 by del Rio with financing from family and friends, Clandestina has a knack for finding its way into market niches that haven’t been penetrated by Cuban products in decades.
When Carnival Corp.’s Fathom Adonia made the first cruise from Miami to Cuba in more than half a century in 2016, T-shirts produced in Clandestina’s Old Havana design studio were on sale in the ship’s store, and the company’s products are now offered on Holland America cruises to the island.
For its new foray into the U.S. market, Clandestina faced the island’s sketchy internet connections, erratic supplies of raw materials, and U.S. banks that like to steer clear of anything with Cuba attached to it.
Manufacturing in Cuba and trying to export directly to the United States is just about impossible for small Cuban entrepreneurs, but Clandestina found a way to make e-commerce and U.S. sales a reality.