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Cuban Entrepreneur Spotlight: El Encanto Atelier

April 14, 2020

El Encanto Atelier is a Cuban clothing brand that designs and creates handmade and unique clothes and accessories inspired by the early 20th century.

María Laura García, founder of El Encanto Atelier, shared her experiences with us as a private business owner and entrepreneur in Cuba.

CUBA CANDELA: What inspired you to start your company? 

María Laura García (pictured): I have always been attracted to the elegance of simplicity. When a garment is placed on the body, it is an unequivocal symbol of spirit.

For a few years I lived outside of Cuba and when I returned, I spent a lot of time with my grandmother. We talked about earlier decades and their customs and ideals. After she passed away, I began organizing her things and found molds to make dresses. This stirred something within me. I began imagining Cuba as an elegant island with people wearing pieces made especially for them.

María Laura García, founder of El Encanto Atelier || Photo by May Reguera

What is the most rewarding part about starting a company in Cuba and why? 

MLG: I never thought I would create this project. Everything happened naturally. I am self-taught and of course, one of the things that moves me every day is working with people who work so hard. They have been like mentors. 

For me, creation is a magical act. What do you imagine? Can you make it happen? The material makes the idea possible, and the immaterial is the rest. Who wears the garment, and how it is transformed.

Photo by May Reguera

How would you describe the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Cuba and how has it allowed your company to grow? 

MLG: Cuba is constantly evolving. I feel privileged to be in this space that has allowed me to work and learn new things.  

In December 2016, the company earned a spot in the design area of La Fábrica De Arte Cubano, a gallery like space showcasing the top designers, artists, musicians and dancers in Cuba. We were able to sell and display our latest pieces there. Since then, the unique and hand-made pieces from El Encanto Atelier have expanded as the project has been recognized by visitors from all over the world. 

Photo by May Reguera

What have been some of the biggest challenges of founding and growing your business and how did you overcome them? 

MLG: Every day poses new challenges, but I believe that anything is possible with creativity and supportive people.  

Throughout my journey, I have used the National Library José Martí as a critical resource. For me, the library has provided an oasis of knowledge. I have found the most valuable references, photographic archives, books and videos that perfectly portray life at other moments in history and the beauty of humanity. 

Photo by Hardy Studio for Vogue Italia

How does your creation and design process work? 

MLG: When creating a new piece, I like to visualize something comfortable and fresh with the ability to transform each person who wears it. 

The person wearing the piece determines how it will look, what accessories will be used, where it will be worn and most importantly, how you radiate confidence. 

Every detail must be taken care of down to the last seam. One of the most enjoyable parts of the process is when we present the design to the buyer. The designers may alter the design a few more times based on buyer feedback. Teamwork is so important, and the result never ceases to amaze me.

Each piece is an adventure with inspirations from the past. For example, I have incorporated antique buttons that I have been gifted from friends’ grandmothers into belts and other aspects of the garments. 

Photo by May Reguera

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs in Cuba? 

MLG: Do your research. Surround yourself with people you enjoy creating with every day. This is not a job. You are privileged to choose what you want to do every day of your life, so it had better be fascinating. 

Connect to María Laura García and El Encanto Atelier on Instagram @elencantoatelier.


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