Cuba fash­ion show is small step for pri­vate en­ter­prise

Antelope Valley Press (Sunday) - - Business -

HA­VANA (AP) — Thousands of young Cubans packed a Ha­vana arena to wit­ness a small step for­ward in the tu­mul­tuous re­la­tion­ship be­tween one of the world’s last com­mu­nist states and its small but vi­brant pri­vate sec­tor.

The four-year-old fash­ion la­bel Clan­des­tina on Fri­day night de­buted a new col­lec­tion, based on Cuba’s legacy of in­ter­na­tional ath­letic achieve­ment, in the Ra­mon Fonst arena in Ha­vana’s Rev­o­lu­tion Plaza, home to the most pow­er­ful Cuban state in­sti­tu­tions.

Run­way mod­els in­cluded stars from the glory days of Cuban am­a­teur sports, in­clud­ing world record high jumper Javier So­tomayor, Olympic cham­pion run­ner Ana Fidelia Quirot and Regla Tor­res, con­sid­ered by many to be the best fe­male vol­ley­ball player in his­tory.

The Cuban pri­vate sec­tor is le­gal but highly re­stricted by law, thick­ets of bu­reau­cracy and of­fi­cial views of pri­vate en­ter­prise as ei­ther a nec­es­sary evil, a po­ten­tial threat to the so­cial­ist sys­tem, or both.

De­spite that, Clan­des­tina was able to win per­mis­sion to de­but its 2020 “Glo­ries of Sports” col­lec­tion in the 4,000-seat Fonst arena, with the par­tic­i­pa­tion of ath­letes seen as na­tional he­roes, in a sign that at least some mem­bers of

Cuban of­fi­cial­dom are in­creas­ingly ac­cept­ing the le­git­i­macy of pri­vate en­ter­prise. Ad­mis­sion to the pub­lic was free.

“This couldn’t have been done in the past in Cuba,” said Clan­des­tina de­signer Gabriel Lara. “This is all a process that comes out of en­trepreneur­ship in Cuba and this to­day is very fa­vor­able for us and for our cus­tomers. This, to­day, is an ad­vance.”

Cuban first lady Lis Cuesta has be­come a quiet, high-pro­file pro­moter of Cuba’s pri­vate sec­tor. When Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Corn­wall, vis­ited Cuba, Cuesta hosted a tast­ing of of­fers from pri­vate restau­rants.

Dur­ing a visit by the Span­ish royal fam­ily this month, she wore a dress made by Dador, another small, pri­vate Cuban fash­ion la­bel.

The Clan­des­tina col­lec­tion’s theme ap­peared wisely cho­sen — pride in the na­tion’s sports glory is com­mon to vir­tu­ally all Cubans re­gard­less of their at­ti­tudes to­ward the gov­ern­ment or political be­liefs.

“Even though they’re a pri­vate busi­ness, they’re do­ing work that shows our na­tion’s dig­nity and be­ing pri­vate or state-run isn’t rel­e­vant,” Quirós said. “It doesn’t mat­ter. They rep­re­sent Cuba and the Cuban peo­ple.”

As­so­ci­ated Press

A model wears a cre­ation from “Clan­des­tina,” the first Cuban in­de­pen­dent ur­ban fash­ion brand, dur­ing a launch for the 2020 col­lec­tion called Sports Glo­ries in Ha­vana, Cuba, on Fri­day.

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