How Havana Club Is Using Collaborations to Celebrate Cuban Culture

A look inside the rum label’s most successful link-ups to date.

Fashion 
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Heading out of José Martí International Airport and towards the Cuban capital of Havana, the Caribbean island’s affiliation with rum is immediately apparent. Amidst the myriad of Ché Guevara T-shirts, boxes of Cohibas and Chevrolet Bel Airs you’ll find old Havana Club signs atop roadside stores, locals clad in the brand’s merchandise and even fresh guava juice being sold out of reused Havana Club bottles. Its prominence is fairly hard to ignore.

Nationalized following the 1958 Cuban Revolution, Havana Club has become a national treasure. Originally founded in the Cárdenas region by José Arechabala S.A in 1934, the brand was acquired by French-owned Pernod Ricard in 1993, which saw it become a part of a 50:50 venture between them and the Cuban Government.

Since then, Havana Club has become one of the most renowned rum brands in the world, with its unmistakable motif a regular sight in bars across the globe. More recently though, the label has delved into the popular world of collaborations, teaming up with artists, musicians and fashion brands for limited-edition releases to both promote its creative side, and further extend its reach.

“Collaborations contribute to putting Havana Club on the map because we partner with artists, creatives or even brands that we admire and feel connected to,” explains Havana Club Head of Communications, Apolline Celeyron. “It’s also a great way to share the brand’s Cuban energy and show what Havana and Havana Club are really about.”

Undoubtedly one of the brand’s most successful unifications to date came alongside Skepta in 2021, who traveled to the distillery to blend Rum of Skepta, the third and final installment of the duo’s collaboration following his designing of two limited-edition Havana Club 7 bottles the previous year.

“The starting point of this collaboration was about Skepta’s Yoruba roots, a culture that has traveled from the African continent to Cuba and then back to Africa,” explains Celeyron on how the collaboration came about. “Releasing the first part of our partnership in the midst of the pandemic allowed us to emphasize more than ever that we need to stand together as communities, whether it is on a global or a local scale to share ideas, ideals and visions – even from afar.”

Rum of Skepta — a dark rum limited to just 3000 units globally — came about when the rapper visited the Havana Club distillery in early 2020 and sat down with Asbel Morales, one of the brand’s rum Maestros. “It really was a meeting between two masters of their respective fields. At first glance they have nothing in common, apart from being at the top of their art, but their passion, dedication to their craft and the will to be part of a wider community resulted in a unique product,” continues Celeyron. “Skepta already had clear ideas on what he wanted his rum to taste like, and created the base with Asbel in only four hours. It’s the pinnacle of a journey which has paid homage to creative impulses, inner strength and the power of community.”

Music isn’t the only avenue Havana Club has explored, as collaborations with fashion labels Pigalle Paris and PLACES+FACES show. The former, which dropped midway through 2021, saw the duo pay homage to Cuban culture with a limited-edition capsule collection, while the latter — a more streetwear-focused release — celebrated the rich culture, music and nightlife that Havana has to offer.

“We took PLACES+FACES to Havana to share the best our hometown has to offer so they can document their experience and share their perspective on Havana,” says Celeyron. “This collab really put Havana front and center through the lense of PLACES+FACES, sharing what they liked and what inspired them. True to the spirit of people and brands coming together around shared vibes, interests and values.”

Despite a busy few years for Havana Club, there’s plenty more in the pipeline when it comes to collaborative releases. “We recently teamed up with Bad Gyal in Spain, who wanted a label design that resonated with her love of partying and the energy she feels when going out, meeting people,” continues Celeyron. “There’s also a very exciting global collaboration that will be released this summer, but I can’t say any more, so you’ll just have to stay tuned!”

You can find out more about Havana Club, its latest releases and its collaborative ventures on the brand’s web site.

DISCLAIMER: Not intended to be seen by persons under the legal alcohol drinking age or in countries with restrictions on advertising on alcoholic beverages. Please drink responsibly.

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