Cuba Libre: Alex Pettyfer Recalls Chanel's Historic Havana Show

Cuba Libre: Alex Pettyfer Recalls Chanel's Historic Havana Show

With the resort season in full swing, the actor reflects on the collection that kicked off the season

With the resort season in full swing, the actor reflects on the collection that kicked off the season

Text: Alex Pettyfer

In a 1965 article that appeared in the Atlantic, Ernest Hemingway, in his characteristically sparse manner, remarked, “I live in Cuba because I love Cuba.” Indeed, the Nobel Prize-winning author was matter-of-fact about his decision to call the village of San Francisco de Paula, just outside of Havana, his home. As a fan of Hemingway, I’ve always been fascinated by Cuba, Havana in particular. It has been a point on the map that calls to me, though I’ve never had the chance to visit. Naturally, then, when I received my invitation from Karl Lagerfeld to attend his Resort collection show in Havana, the chance to finally visit the storied city was a dream come true.

Inspired by classic Cuban style, looks included classic fedoras

To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Chanel’s shows are always such gorgeous spectacles, a feast not only for the eyes, but for all the senses. How, I wondered, will Karl bring his vision to life in a city so grand, and yet so untouched? And just as important, I was curious to see how the world of the fashion jet set, many of whom had likely never been to Cuba themselves, would find the experience. Would they, as Hemingway did, love it without question?

On the night of Chanel’s show, we drove through Havana’s historic quarter as we made our way to the Paseo del Prado, a broad, tree-lined thoroughfare separating the old part of the city from the newer Centro Habana. Riding in one of the ubiquitous classic cars for which the city has become iconic, I was stunned by the scene unfolding before me: the warm sultry winds, the sounds of salsa emanating from back-alley clubs, the smell of sea salt in the air. It struck me then that Karl had intended for the evening’s guests to experience the city in such a manner— Havana was as much a part of the show that night as the fashion I was about to see.

A classic car driving down the Malecón, Havana's waterfront promenade

To be sure, Havana is experiencing a resurgence on the world stage. After President Obama’s historic détente with the Castro regime, it seems that everyone is flocking to the island. In the last several months, the Rolling Stones have performed, new hotels are opening up everywhere, and on the night of the show, an American cruise ship was seen docking in the city’s harbor. As we snaked our way through the narrow cobblestone streets, I wondered how this influx of interest might change the Havana that Hemingway had fallen in love with. When I spoke with several residents of the city earlier that day, reactions were positive. During a tour of Hemingway’s home, known as Finca Vigía, or “lookout house,” my guide noted that, for him, the changing relations “will help growth.”

That night, as I sat and watched Karl’s show, with models gliding down the Prado, some wearing fedoras while others smoked fat cigars, I couldn’t help but think that Hemingway would have loved the spectacle. Indeed, while Karl’s fashion stole the night, Havana was undoubtedly front and center.

Lagerfeld directing a run-through before show
Brad and Hudson Kroenig walking in the show
Gisele Bündchen seen on the Paseo del Prado
Classic cars parked along the Prado
Lagerfeld dancing with Sandy Brant
After the show, salsa performers flooded the Prado
Cruising the streets of "La Habana Vieja"
Havana's former capital, El Capitolio
Tilda Swinton spotted salsa dancing
Rafael San Juan's sculpture on the Malceón
Lagerfeld and Hudson Kroenig walking down the Paseo del Prado, which served as a runway for the collection
One of several outdoor performances after the show's conclusion
The show's after party at the Plaza de la Catedral
Credits: Photographs by Alex Pettyfer.

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