If fashion can be said to break down borders, the best example of that has to be yesterday’s incredible show by Chanel. Showcasing their Cruise 2017 collection, Chanel Cruise Cuba, the storied French house took over 600 international guests to watch the first international fashion show staged in the communist-turned-socialist country since the revolution in 1959.
Held at El Paseo del Prado, one of the most emblematic thoroughfares in Havana, running from Habana Vieja to Habana Centro, it’s a major focal point in the local life of Havana. The crumbling yet elegant buildings that line this 160-metre “runway” (it’s actually a central pedestrian walkway lined with trees) was filled to the rafters with local Cubans who lived, luckily, right beside the action that was all happening on this historic balmy evening on 3 May 2016 at 7.30pm local time.
This walkway, where international fashionistas sat in all their Chanel finery for a historic moment in Cuba’s colourful history, was redesigned in 1928 at the request of the Cuban President Gerardo Machado by a French landscape architect, Jean-Claude Nicolas Forestier, and it boasts eight spectacular bronze statues of lions, standing sentinel at each intersection. These eight lions are the work of the French sculptor Jean Puiforcat and the Cuban sculptor and bronze casting expert, Juan Comas.
The show space—the Paseo del Prado—shows the ties between Cuba and France, symbolizing a triumphant fashion coup for Havana and Chanel.
Stella Tennant started the show with a flashback to the country’s colonial past with a chic monochromatic tuxedo ensemble, relaxed with cropped trousers, Panama straw hat and brogues. Jackets came cropped to reflect the dance culture that permeates every pore and beat in this sub tropical Havana, nonchalantly paired with a wrap-around cummerbund, white socks and loafers—a thoroughly modern outfit yet one that looked like it came straight from the salsa clubs.
The military presence was strong on the runway, with olive green cotton romper suits and touches of camouflage tones. Read: brown cotton skirt suits, khaki chiffon cocktail dresses scattered throughout the collection.
The highlights were the soft pastel tones on delicious separates and the most desired IT item: Coco Cuba T-shirts. Worked under the signature multi hued tweed pastel suits, the tees spoke of youth and were a nostalgic nod to the halcyon days of summer in the 1950s. Then, out came the vintage car prints—referencing what took us to the show and what runs on the busy streets today—in lollipop and sorbet shades, which were as refreshing as a dollop of ice cream on a hot balmy evening.
The show finished with a razzmatazz of brightly coloured dresses—a reflection of this country’s Latino tastes and Caribbean vibes—and a cheery welcome to the season of cocktail evenings by the bar. The irony that many Cubans couldn’t yet taste the sweet beauty of capitalist French couture fashion didn’t matter.
But perhaps Tilda Swinton said it best when she so succinctly put it, “The Cubans don’t need fashion—they have all the style they need.”