Viva Chanel: Karl Lagerfeld Stages Cruise Show in Cuba

Viva Chanel: Karl Lagerfeld Stages Cruise Show in Cuba

Riding a wave of historic events in Cuba, Karl Lagerfeld stages his cruise collection in Havana’s fabled Paseo del Prado

Riding a wave of historic events in Cuba, Karl Lagerfeld stages his cruise collection in Havana’s fabled Paseo del Prado

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With all the attention surrounding the recent thaw in relations between the United States and Cuba, Karl Lagerfeld’s announcement last year to show his Cruise ‘16/’17 collection in Havana was seen as one more sign of the Caribbean island-nation’s reemergence onto the world’s stage as a global destination. Hot on the heels of the Rolling Stone’s free concert and President Obama’s historic visit earlier this year, Lagerfeld’s choice of venue signaled once again the designer’s keen knack not only for truly grand showmanship, but also his deft ability to remain at the forefront of cultural trends. And indeed, his choice of locale for the show—the open-aired, tree-lined Paseo del Prado, which divides the city’s old quarter from it’s more modern Centro Havana—also underscored Lagerfeld’s ongoing ability to blend the iconic with the decidedly contemporary.

So close on the heels of the Met Ball, there will perhaps be contention as to the whether the show will turn out to be the fashion event of the year, but it most certainly will be its most historic. Indeed, not since Christian Dior opened a space in the Battista-era Havana department store, El Encato, in the late 1950’s, has any major luxury brand maintained a presence in Castro’s communist enclave. And, as would be expected of such a feat, Chanel had closely guarded much of the logistical elements that went in to producing the show, with strict regulation of press in attendance and access to the event tightly regulated.

For those lucky enough to attend, the setting for the collection’s show could not have been a more romantic affair. Arriving in the ubiquitous classic cars for which Havana has become known, guests were seated along benches on opposite sides of the Prado. A-list guests in attendance included Gisele, Vanessa Paradis, and Tilda Swinton, not to mention the presence of Fidel’s grandson, Tony Castro.

Proceeding down the newly polished boulevard, models wore pieces that referenced the Deco architecture and sultry elegance of Havana’s vibrant mélange of cultural influences. Many sported white fedoras with black bands, Chanel’s take on the classic Cuban hat whilst other models insouciantly smoked cigars. Among the looks were bathing suits and pajama-sets splashed with vibrant prints of classic cars, cropped bolero tops paired with high-waisted wide-legged pants, and several smart pieces that recalled a more modish 50’s look, no doubt a nod to Havana’s pre-Castro heyday. Indeed, at one point, with the Prado crowded by models, one could imagine the scene evoked an altogether very different time in city’s history. As the show closed, Lagerfeld himself took to the Prado – holding hands with his godson, Hudson Koening. And then, as the designer made his exit, the models once again flocked to the boulevard, this time accompanied by a salsa band, breaking into an exuberant conga. It was, to be sure, truly Cuban chic.

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