Cafecitos and Fresh Linen: Dador Gives Havana a New Spot to Shop

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Calle Amargura offers a true experience of Old Havana — from vegetable sellers to flying bicitaxis, from potholes and chisme to “Cuban elevators” (baskets and rope) hanging from fourth floor windows. These days, the street offers something else: Dador, a modern, high-quality clothing line, founded by women and made in Cuba.

The store is set up with a small kitchen and a couch in the back, inviting guests to sit down, chill and have a coffee while they shop. It’s an oasis of fresh design in the form of linen, chambray cotton, and rayon — and though it opened last week, it’s already a must-hit in Old Havana.

This week, we were lucky to talk with co-founder Lauren Fajardo on her experience creating Dador and building a female-led business in Havana from the ground up. `

Dador founders Ilse Anton, Raquel Janero and Lauren Fajardo.

Dador founders Ilse Anton, Raquel Janero and Lauren Fajardo.

What’s your story, and how have you ended up selling high quality linens on Calle Amargura in Old Havana?

I was born and raised in Havana where I studied fashion design. After living in New York City for a few years, I found myself back in Cuba for work and family reasons. It was right around the time Cuba and US relations thawed and the possibilities and entrepreneurial spirits were high. I teamed up with two friends of mine from college, Ilse Anton and Raquel Janero and the rest is history. That was the beginning of Dador. 

Dador was founded by three women. Can you tell us what it was like starting a female-led business from scratch?

It’s empowering. We’re really proud of what we have been able to achieve and continue to build. There are always challenges when starting your own business but we always knew we were up to the task of breaking stereotypes about women in Cuba. People respect us and support us because they’ve seen the hard work and determination we’ve put into making this dream a reality. We can now inspire other woman with entrepreneurial interests. 

There are many ways to make a living in the private sector in Havana – a clothing line is probably one of the hardest. What made you guys decide to do clothing?

We studied fashion design together, so the possibility of owning our own business that showcases our vision and passions, and also has a positive cultural impact was motivating. We saw a niche market opportunity that was lacking within the private sector, which is saturated with restaurants and Airbnbs.

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Where does the name Dador come from?

Dador means Giver. All creators are givers of something. We are creators. We are Dador.

What are you inspired by?

Havana! We don’t have to look much further. Our first collection is completely inspired by this magical city. We are surrounded everyday by so many contrasts that make the inspiration radar sound off at every corner. 

What part of Dador are you most proud of?

Everything! We’ve built it all from the ground up, so I’m really proud of us. We make a really good team. We have great communication, we complement each others talents and we share the same vision. 

What’s your favorite design thus far, and what are you looking forward to creating?

Most of our designs you can mix and match. I personally love the combination of patterns, colors and form. I love to style our flowy tropical shirts with the structured statement nautical pants. 

I look forward to creating a forward-thinking, sustainable business that is part of the creative output of an emerging group of talented Cuban fashion designers who are making socially relevant, thoughtfully designed, well-crafted locally made goods that bring a modern take to Cuban fashion.

From Dador’s latest collection “Body and Soul”.

From Dador’s latest collection “Body and Soul”.

Why Cuba, and why now? 

Spirit and opportunity. 

Dador is located on Amargura #253 between Habana and Compostela.

Isabel Albee