Traditional items such as guayaberas and bags are standards in Cuban culture. Without the same access to new products and materials much of the world enjoys, Cubans have stuck with what works. The Guayabera, a traditional shirt with a loose fit and big pockets, has been worn throughout the country for hundreds of years. For various reasons, including being perceived as an unfashionable government uniform, these roomy shirts have lost their popularity. On the other hand, recycling and upcycling have always been popular in Cuba as people without access to new fabrics and materials got creative with what they had on hand. The collective of Clandestina is inspired by these traditions and traditional items, giving them new life through art and design.
The materials used to make the guayaberas are typically linen, thread, cotton, or cheesecloth sourced within the community at craft markets, with buttons and other materials upcycled from used clothing. Bags and pouches are made of recycled sugar, bean, rice, and postal service bags, as well as material from second-hand clothing. All creations are sewn in-house from prototypes created by the designers and printed designs are also created in the artists’ workshop.
Clandestina is Cuba’s first urban fashion brand, a collective of designers, artists, and creators committed to “showing our young folk, and people all over the world, that our traditions can also evolve as we do with time–so they don’t have to be lost with the passage of generations.” By making ordinary items stylish and fashionable, Clandestina attracts young people to the crafts of art and design. Clandestina also shares its members’ passion for design through workshops, social service training, and popular events such as “Dame tu pullover” (Give me your t-shirt) where members take to the streets to print art on t-shirts for free.