Antonio Castro’s Fiancee, Manager of Desigual – How a Boutique Works in Cuba
Antonio Castro’s Fiancee, Manager of Desigual: How a Boutique Works in
Cuba / Juan Juan Almeida
Juan Juan Almeida, 12 May 2016 — The most expensive labels in Cuba are
on the verge of the abyss. Mango, Gas, Zara, Paul & Shark, Adidas,
Lacoste, Desigual and a few others present their calling cards to the
Cuban government while naïve foreign businessmen in the high-end textile
industry look on, allowing themselves to be seduced. The stores pretend
to be profitable but it is all an illusion. They are nothing more than a
houses of cards, fragile and in danger of collapse.
Commercial concessions like these are doled out on the basis of their
usefulness through politically connected friends and with people who,
directly or indirectly, wield authority, hold decision making power or
One very recent example happens to be talk of the town: Patricia Nuñez,
an anchor on the educational channel and the current fiancée of Antonio
Castro Soto del Valle, son of Fidel Castro. She recently made her debut
as manager of a new Desigual store in the shopping mall of the Hotel
Comodoro in Miramar.
Fashion is the new obsession among Cuba’s elite. But not even close ties
to Cuba’s monarchs are enough to improve the bottom line of these luxury
clothing brands. Having a presence in Cuba can certainly be an added
plus, albeit a costly one. Economically speaking, the thrill of being on
the island mainly results in huge and continuous losses.
The government’s unpaid bills are piling up in the accounting books of
these retail companies. But that is not the main reason these stores are
suffering. It is due to their employees who — with a work ethic that
includes criminality (specifically, handling stolen goods) — make steady
money tax-free while dealing a body blow to their own employers.
Another issue is that, generally speaking, what is being sold in stores
like those in the Hotel Comodoro are knock-offs imported by merchants
who circumvent Cuban custom regulations, or who sell merchandise
produced clandestinely by seamstresses — with or without self-employment
licenses — who attach fake labels made by local artisans.
These include blouses, skirts, shirts, leggings and pants. Anything that
can be purchased for a price of between five to seven convertible pesos
is sold as “the real thing” at one-hundred times the original price. As
a result, the legitimate stores lose while these shopkeepers win.
It is for this reason that Cuba’s well-to-do have not been seduced into
buying this stuff. They have no interest in the Hotel Comodoro shopping
What interests them are places like New York’s Fifth Avenue, London’s
Bond Street, Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, Tverskaya Street in Moscow,
Bahnhofstrasse in Zurich, Wangfujing in Beijing, Avenue Montaigne in
Paris, Via Monte Napoleone in Milán, P.C Hooftstraat in Amsterdam and
Madrid’s Serrano Street.
Why? Because for them, as well as for those who talk so much about
sacrifice and revolution, the shopping experience at these places far
exceeds the average earthling’s retail expectations, whether they live
inside or outside of Cuba.
Source: Antonio Castro’s Fiancee, Manager of Desigual: How a Boutique
Works in Cuba / Juan Juan Almeida – Translating Cuba –