IN A global fashion first, Karl Lagerfeld presented his Chanel 2016/17 Cruise collection in Havana on the island of Cuba: a historic yet playful revolution that will go down in the annals of Chanel’s fashion files.
In fact, it was the first international fashion show in the Cuban capital since the 1959 communist revolution.
A swag of celebrities, including Tilda Swinton, Gisele Bündchen, Vanessa Paradis and Vin Diesel gathered on the leafy Prado promenade that had been turned into a runway for the show.
While Cuba and the US restored diplomatic relations last year it was Cuba’s “cultural richness” that inspired Chanel designer Lagerfeld to focus his collection around the controversial country.
In December 2014, an agreement between the United States and Cuba, popularly called “The Cuban Thaw” (brokered in part by Canada and Pope Francis) began the process of restoring international relations between the two countries.
This thawing is obviously following through to fashion “Western” institutions like mammoth catwalk fashion shows, Chanel being first design house off the mark.
The show took place on the Paseo del Prado, Havana’s main artery and symbol of the links uniting Cuba and France with the Prado having been redesigned in 1928 by a French landscape architect who at every crossroads positioned eight spectacular bronze statues of lions — Mademoiselle Chanel’s fetish animal.
The show started with an opening passage affirming one of the major cruise silhouettes: masculine-feminine with long, masculine jackets worn over wide trousers with turn-ups, flat two-tone shoes, shirts belted with fabric and, naturally, Panama hats.
The underlying theme of the collection was an interpretation of the ‘guayabera’ — a traditional Cuban shirt with pockets, shoulder tabs and flat pleats that Lagerfeld mischievously nicknamed the ‘Cuban tux’.
Some of the trends Chanel brought to the fore included cycling shorts delicately rhinestones and embroidered with camellias; multicoloured palm tree prints; scooped necklines; puffed sleeves; feathers; pencil skirts; a Cadillac print and lots of cigar-inspired clutch bags.
Colours included baroque facades of an old town like Cuba with yellow, pink, orange, turquoise, smoky browns and bright green the big stars.
While the Panama hat made a big appearance as did an occasional sequined black beret, harking back to, fairly irreverently, ‘Commander’ Che Guevara.
As far as accessories were concerned, it was all about woven flip-flops, caged sandals worn over ankle socks, crocheted backpacks, soft bundle bags with multicoloured local snail patterns, and of course the ‘cigar box’.
After the show, the party continued at the Plaza de la Catedral in Havana Old Town, and while the majority of Cubans don’t even have a Chanel store let alone be able to afford a piece of designer fashion, the party decor was all hand made by Cuban craftsmen and women.
Good to see the French house contributing to the Cuban economy.