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Fidel & Karl
 
Havana, CUBA. Close Encounters of the Third Kind: COMMUNISM meets CONSUMERISM. Karl Lagerfeld has staged the Chanel Cruise 2016-2017 parade in the Cuban capital Havana - the first one-of-a-kind fashion show since the 1959 when Fidel Castro took the power and private industry was banned as Cuba turned to communism.  Seven hundred guests for the Chanel show including Gisele Bündchen, Tilda Swinton, Carine Roitfeld, Geraldine Chaplin, Vin Diesel, Vanessa Paradis, Alice Dellal, Caroline de Maigret, and Langley Fox Hemingway were taken to the open-air street show by 170 multi-colored 1940s and ‘50s American open-top Buicks, Cadillacs, and Oldsmobiles.
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Fidel & Karl
Close Encounters of the Third Kind: COMMUNISM meets CONSUMERISM.

Havana, CUBA. First it was President Barack Obama. Then The Rolling Stones. And now Chanel.   After decades of Cold War acrimony, the United States and Cuba reestablished diplomatic ties last year.  President Barack Obama also traveled to Cuba in 2016, the first visit by a U.S. president to the island in nearly 90 years, and in March, The  Rolling Stones held an unprecedented free outdoor concert in Havana, decades after their music was banned by the “cultural gatekeepers” in the early years after the Cuban Revolution. And Chanel? The French fashion  house has staged its Cruise 2017 Catwalk in the Cuban capital Havana - the first one-of-a-kind fashion show since the 1959 when Fidel Castro took the power and private industry was banned as Cuba turned to communism.

For years, the communist principles that ruled in Cuba insisted on equality, even in clothing.  Thankfully, in recent years Castro’s younger brother and current President – Raúl Castro – has slowly allowed more capitalism to enter the economy, personal contacts with foreigners, the importation of certain goods, images, ideas, and a consumer culture has again emerged from the shadows.  Cubans have only been allowed to own property since 2011.


Story of the Cruise 2016/17 CHANEL show in Cuba

Karl Lagerfeld has been creating the Cruise collections since 1983, and taking them abroad since 2006. The designer   staged cruise shows in Miami, Venice, Singapore, Dubai and Seoul in the past. But, Chanel has never before brought its show to Latin America. After Chanel’s Cruise 2016 show in Seoul a year ago, Karl Lagerfeld, with his truffle-dog nose for the zeitgeist,  was quick to highlight his very deliberate selection of Cuba for the parade, citing his choice was to draw global attention to the long-isolated nation. “The world is finally opening up to Cuba. Everyone wants to come and taste the forbidden fruit. Everyone wants to discover it, savour it, enjoy it, explore it,” said Mariela Castro, the daughter of the president, Raúl Castro, and a prominent gay-rights activist on the island. “It is an honor for all Cubans for this big event to take place here,” said former President Fidel Castro's grandson Antonio Castro, 17, whose grandfather was also known for his good looks as a young revolutionary.
Chanel has a reputation of being able to pull anything off, but a luxury and glamorous event of epic proportions in a communist country was an Opera Prima. The celebration of material wealth that a luxury fashion catwalk like Chanel Cruise Collection represents sparked some uncomfortable discussions about the growing gap between the rich and poor in Cuba. Some Cubans criticized Chanel for choosing to showcase its Cruise 2017 in a country starved of material opulence. A place where 11 million people live off $20 a month and where food is historically scarce . Others said the show “gave their dreams wings to fly.”

Tim Blanks, as always, sums it up perfectly in his article for BOF “The fundamental incongruity of the moment was lost on no one. Cuba is very poor, Chanel is not. Cuba is only now relaxing from the rigours of Fidel Castro’s communist dream, Chanel has long benefited from different dreams, the ones Karl Lagerfeld realises with the bottomless capitalist resources of a huge French fashion house. But you could also say that something the two men have in common — aside from the fact they’re both in their 80s — is the ability to imagine a world and bring it into being. The force of will that has taken is acknowledged in their sobriquets: Castro the Comandante, Karl the Kaiser.”
The Chanel one-of-a-kind catwalk - on an invitation only basis -  took place in a very symbolic place: the Paseo del Prado promenade in Old Havana, which runs for a mile or so from the Malecón, the seaside boulevard,  to just before Central Park, the Grand Theater and the Capitolio building. The tree-lined  boulevard, whose name means “meadow walk” in Spanish, was originally laid out in 1772 and was redesigned by the French landscape architect Jean-Claude Nicolas Forestier in 1928. The colonial-era buildings, cinemas, theaters and colonnaded mansions along the Prado are reminiscent of the Baroque and neo‑Classical style of European capitals such as Madrid, Paris and Vienna. Eight spectacular bronze lions stand guard on every street corner all the way to the sea front. After the revolution the street and many of its buildings continued to deteriorate physically, to such point that many collapsed and are still in a ruined state although some are being renovated. UNESCO has placed Old Havana on its list of world heritage sites, preserving its authenticity for generations to come.

Karl Lagerfeld and models

By showcasing its Cruise collection in Cuba, Chanel has said it was harking back to the roots of the line, originally designed for wealthy Americans holidaying on yachts and cruises in the Caribbean to escape the winter gray.   Bruno Pavlovsky, president of Chanel fashion, noted the fashion house does “ZERO” business in Cuba - Chanel goods would cost well beyond the average Cuban wage of $25 a month  -  and that the decision to show the cruise collection in Havana was purely a creative one, with Lagerfeld drawing inspiration from the country’s culture and heritage. “This is all about my vision of Cuba. But of course, what do I know about Cuba? It is very childish, my idea.Karl Lagerfeld said. Interestingly, Karl Lagerfeld hadn’t even been to Cuba before the show, with the approval for the parade only being approved March of this year.
Seven hundred guests for the Chanel show including Gisele Bündchen, Tilda Swinton, Carine Roitfeld, Geraldine Chaplin, Vin Diesel, Vanessa Paradis, Alice Dellal, Caroline de Maigret, and Langley Fox Hemingway were whisked to the open-air street show by 170 multi-colored 1940s and ‘50s American open-top Buicks, Cadillacs, and Oldsmobiles. “They rented over a hundred old cars,” said Victor, one of the drivers of the classic cars hired for the evening by Chanel. “There are not many cars like this left in the city right now.

 Chanel No. 5 campaign star Gisele Bündchen
Before the show, guests were taken to hot spots around Havana, like Ernest Hemingway’s house (Ernest Hemingway called Cuba home from 1939 to 1960. Finca La Vigía, his house in San Francisco de Paula, is where the guayabera-loving author wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Old Man and the Sea,  A Movable Feast, and four more books.)  and "Obra en Proceso / Work in Progress", an exhibition of Lagerfeld’s photographs.

Photo courtesy of Kate Rix  - By the early 1950s, Hemingway was living in Cuba. The painting behind him here at Finca Vigia is a portrait of himself by Waldo Peirce titled Kid Balzac. 
Langley Fox Hemingway, the great grand-daughter of the American writer who lived on the Island between 1927 and 1950 made a stop in Cuba for the Cruise show. She visited the author’s house and its surroundings.

Taking place at the Factoría Habana as part of a month-long celebration of French culture in Cuba, the exhibition showcases over 200 photos focusing on subjects that interest Lagerfeld the most such as fashion, architecture and landscapes, whilst reflecting his skilled usage of a host of cameras and printing techniques. “Today, photography is part of my life. It completes the circle between my artistic and professional restlessness,” Lagerfeld said.

Karl Lagerfeld's exhibition "Obra en Proceso / Work in Progress" Factoría Habana

Many of Lagerfeld’s favorite models walked in the show, including Stella Tennant, Mariacarla Boscono, Mica Arganaraz, Lindsey Wixson, Soo Joo Park as well as recurring models Baptiste Giabiconi and Sébastien Jondeau. Daughters of the Cuban percussionist Angá Diaz, a member of the Buena Vista Social Club, the French-Cuban twin sisters Lisa‑Kaindé and Naomi Diaz sing in English and Yoruba, an African language brought to Cuba in the 17th century. Ibeyi, their band’s name, meaning “twins,” is a reference to the celebration of multiple births in traditional Yoruba culture.  Ibeyi sisters performed one of their songs during the Cruise 2016/17 show, walking the runway to a piano tune, and then gave a concert on the San Cristóbal cathedral square.

Lisa‑Kaindé and Naomi Diaz

Police were reportedly clearing out homeless people in the area of the Chanel show days before. Tight security prevented anyone without a coveted invitation from getting too close but local residents packed balconies along the street to catch a glimpse of some of the stars and the show. “It's a shame they don't let us pass,” aspiring local model Reinaldo Fonseca said.

Carnival cruise ship Adonia arriving in Cuba!

The day after the Carnival cruise ship Adonia dropped anchor and delivered some 704 American tourists from Miami (the first American cruise ship since 40 years) - the Kaiser of Couture showed clothes that idealised the essence of cruisewear, something light and pretty to wear in holiday heat and humidity.

Cruise 2016/17 CHANEL Show in Cuba

The collection that evoked the elegance of pre-revolutionary Cuba,  was true to the Chanel aesthetic with monochrome looks, glittering gowns, tweed, lace, organza, 1950s-style full floaty dresses and wide ties. There were plenty of high waists and relaxed trousers, slouchy bags and a color palette seemingly pulled straight from the streets. The designer, has said his latest inter-seasonal Cruise collection was inspired by the “cultural richness and opening up of Cuba.” Cuban motifs  were exemplified in a fabric depicting turquoise and pink vintage cars used for leisurewear such as jackets, a bathrobe, Flamenco skirts, cigar box clutches (a few models even took to the runway with Cohíbas in hand) and the Beret, which is very french but also very Che Guevara. This accessory was present in different variations throughout the collection with panama hats as well. And T-shirts under models’ tweeds announcing “Viva Coco Libre!”. Next season’s must-own tee!

At the end of the show  Karl Lagerfeld took his bow in a sequin Saint Laurent jacket from Hedi Slimane’s Spring 2016 men’s collection....a subliminal message? Models, guests and the surrounding spectators were serenaded by traditional Cuban music. C'mon guys: it's Cuba.
 
 
SUZY MENKES / THE FINAL WORD!
“Was it inappropriate to hold this Chanel show in a country where poverty and a scraping-to-get by daily life has a face-off with fashion's highest expression of luxury?” wrote Suzy Menkes, International Fashion Editor of Vogue. “Looking at the art on display in a fledgling modern art gallery, converted from a former peanut factory, I remembered how often culture - and particularly fashion - is a bellwether of changing times. Chanel's Havana holiday was far more a tribute to Cuba and its heritage than a capitalist statement woven in tweed.

Karl Lagerfeld and Suzy Menkes

Chanel Cruise 2016-2017 / Looks


Special Thanks:.

Tim Blanks
Suzy Menkes

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