Cuba through the eyes of Chanel


Interpreting history in his own way, Karl Lagerfeld takes the Chanel brigade to Cuba's lively environs, for the label's latest Cruise collection.

By: Dimitria Vitanova

Posted on: May 5, 2016

Chanel Cruise 2016-17 Collection in Cuba, 2016

A lively conga line of glitzy-clad, cigar-dragging, Panama hats-rocking youths brazenly strut the broad boulevard. Tens of brightly painted vintage convertibles rest nearby. Snappy tunes waft in the stuffy spring air.  

The sight inadvertently evokes Cuba, the Caribbean nation that just recently restored its diplomatic relations with the U.S. 

Chanel Cruise 2016-17 Collection in Cuba, 2016

Wait, it is Cuba. Just this past Tuesday (May 3), the grand Paseo del Prado thoroughfare that links Old and New Havana, the communist nation’s capital, turned into an en-plein air runway for Chanel’s 2016/2017 inter-season Cruise Collection. 

The time could not be any better: Karl Lagerfeld’s creations accented the faded majesty of Havana, once a bustling port city, only a day after a Miami-Havana cruise ship glided to the island for the first time in five decades. 

Chanel Cruise 2016-17 Collection in Cuba, 2016

In a string of history-making events (counting the Obamas’ March visit to Cuba), Chanel’s Cruise show is the first fashion extravaganza a Western luxury label threw in the country of salsa in a long, long time. 

Paying tribute to the famed guayabera – a traditional Cuban shirt with pockets, shoulder tabs and flat pleats – the collection cleverly mixes masculinity and femininity to deliver ultimate resort silhouettes. Various Cuban symbols – from old cars to lions to palm leaves – mischievously splash on leisurewear, including the must-have “Viva Coco Libre!” T-shirt.    

Chanel Cruise 2016-17 Collection in Cuba, 2016

Boasting delicate, masterful floral embroideries, stitched on fine fabrics in screaming yellow, pink, green, orange and turquoise, the 2016/2017 Cruise range winks at the heritage of the Maison, which commenced as a brand catering to the merry, affluent American holidaymakers on the Caribbean island. 

Chanel Cruise 2016-17 Collection in Cuba, 2016

Fealty to his penchant for over-the-top presentations, Mr Lagerfeld brought to Cuba a legion of models to walk the garments, and celebrities– among them supermodel Gisele Bundchen and actress Tilda Swinton – to mingle with the likes of Fidel Castro’s grandson Tony Castro, himself a budding model. 

Chanel Cruise 2016-17 Collection in Cuba, 2016

And while Mr Lagerfeld draws inspiration from the “cultural richness and opening up of Cuba,” he is hardly the only one. Proenza Schouler and Stella McCartney also have the island’s captivating spirit all over their 2016 resort lines, while prominent magazines – from Harper’s Bazaar to Marie Claire to Net-a-Porter’s Porter Magazine – jaunt to Cuba to snap coveted covers and rich editorials. 

Chanel Cruise 2016-17 Collection in Cuba, 2016

All of them, however, have raised disapproving eyebrows for parading luxury in a country that is still mired in paucity. But all of them are also putting the island on the global – not solely fashion – radar. And this week, Chanel deftly did so, prompting a wave of attention not only to its latest Cruise Collection but to Cuba, itself. 

Chanel Cruise 2016-17 Collection in Cuba, 2016

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