SUITSUIT INSPIRED BY | Lauren with her own fashion brand in Cuba

Cuba has been blooming for some time now. Restaurants, shops and hotels are popping up one after another and tourists are increasingly finding their way to this beautiful country.  For a couple of years, businesses are no longer owned by the Cuban government. This gives many residents of the island the freedom to express their creativity, like Lauren Fajardo. She and two other women founded Dador: a slow fashion brand that embodies the essence of modern Havana into their clothes. Lauren tells us her inspiring story.  

What is the story of the beginning of Dador?

It's a bit of a complicated story. For a long time, all companies and enterprises were mostly owned by the Cuban government. Private companies were nowhere to be found, so you couldn't really express your own creativity. My mom had one of the more creative professions; she was a modern dance choreographer and director of her own dance company. Growing up backstage, I was inspired by the costumes. I eventually studies Fashion Design in Cuba, but moved to New York after I graduated. I didn’t have much work opportunities in Cuba. So I began working in New York and lived there for seven years. It wasn't until 2015 that I made my way back. At that time, the private sector was thriving. The new Cuba inspired me tremendously, and I wanted to be part of this movement. I felt like I wanted to add that little piece of change to Havana. I sat down with two old fellow students; they still lived in Cuba and were interested in starting a business. That's when we decided to start Dador.

"Life itself always remains an adventure. I mostly let it come to me."

What made you dare to take this step?

I didn't go back right away, but I really wanted to go back to my hometown. New York was nice, but it felt like I didn't fit in. I missed the sense of belonging and community. Cuba has many opposites when compared to New York. Although it comes with its challenges, I do feel at home in Cuba. This made me dare to take the step because I wanted to feel at home again. More people felt this way. Eventually, I took the challenge with two other women, and we drew inspiration from women who had started their own businesses. We really wanted to take this step in Cuba, not in New York. Not only on a creative level, but also by offering jobs and inspiring future generations to do the same.

Did this ultimately bring setbacks?

Definitely. It's not that I wouldn't have done it if I could go back in time, but it wasn't easy either. When we started this business, all three of us knew nothing about starting a business. We ended up buying part of someone's house and turned it into a workshop. We spent a long time in old Havana trying to figure out how to get this business off the ground. There are so many tasks involved: HR, PR, marketing, getting materials, exploring markets and much more. It is hugely challenging, especially with no prior knowledge. So, setbacks were definitely there.

Do you feel you are a business mentor for women in Cuba?

I have a creative background and am still not an expert about creating a business, even though I did. It's something I haven't been doing for a very long time, so I don't really see myself as a mentor. However, I do try to help women in other ways. For example, by taking on projects with them or collaborating with other brands ran by women. I try to teach women to have a mindset that they can do the same as what we did.

What would you say to women who are now in the same position as you were?

There is always uncertainty about what what you are doing:  is it right or wrong? That's why many people don't do it. In the end, it's a risk you take, but it gives a lot of resilience.

"The key to finally doing what you want is self-knowledge and discipline."

How do you maintain this authenticity?

I think it's getting to know yourself and also taking time to listen to  oneself. And finding alignment with your own personal value system. That really helps when making important decisions. To know what you're doing and the choices you're making. Women have a lot of anxiety, battling with what people will think and say. The key to finally doing what you want is self-knowledge and discipline. Not listening to the critical voice, but to be compassionate and flexible to yourself. But also by learning your own limits and knowing how to take a break.

What is your ultimate self-care moment?

It depends. I always say that exercise is one of the most important self-care moments. But also going to bed on time. And to stop drinking alcohol, which I started doing two years ago. Things like going to the spa is a lot of fun, but I don't necessarily see it as self-care. And the difficult moments when you have to make tough choices for yourself are also times of self-care. Because you learn a lot in these moments and learn to cope better in other situations.

What is your favourite book?

I love fiction books. I prefer to read them before I go to bed to unwind. My favourite book is Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. If you're asking me about mindfulness books, I immediately think of Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer. This book gave me a different perspective on life. It taught me the freedom of letting go and how to deal with the voice in your head.

What is your favourite song?

I have a very eclectic music taste. The first song I think of is 'Fade to Black' by Metallica, which I love. But I also really like to dance to music, preferably to reggaeton.

And then we are also curious, what is your favourite SUITSUIT product?

Maybe this is a bit of an open door, but the Fab Seventies collection immediately appealed to me, especially the Cuban Sand colour. So,I thought: that's it! I like the style, it's very retro.

Then the last question: what lies ahead for you in the future?

Cuba is still changing tremendously. Life itself always remains an adventure. I mostly let it come to me. Regarding Dador, we would like to stay close to our roots and heritage. We want to focus on our craft and figuring out scaling. We're venturing internationally. There is still a lot in our path.