It's been a busy few days for the fashion elite. On Sunday night it was the glamorous occasion of President Obama's final White House Correspondents' dinner, then on Monday night it was of course, the Met Gala where the style A-list gathered to celebrate the opening of the annual fashion exhibition at the Costume Insitute. And then it was straight on a plane to the Caribbean for last night's Chanel Cruise 2017 show in Cuba. Set on Havana's Paseo del Prado, a historic boulevard that leads to the city's cultural centre, this was a fashion first as travel sanctions have only just been lifted on the island. The catwalk and its all-star cast of models and guests – Gisele Bundchen, Carine Roitfeld, Tilda Swinton, Vin Diesel and even Fidel Castro’s grandson Tony attended – were nestled between the colourful buildings of the colonial avenue, La Habana Vieja, as Stella Tennant opened the show in a Guayabera shirt and loose black and white suit. Models including Binx Walton, Mariacarla Boscono and Lineisy Montero followed in multi-tonal, ruffled dresses, signature Chanel bouclé jackets rendered in vibrant hues of lime green and bright yellow and 'Viva Coco Libre' T-shirts, making up a collection that was as colourful at the Cuban buildings in the backdrop. The show closed with a conga as models danced down Prado to the lively drumbeats and singing of a Cuban band. But while the glamourous guests, flown in from around the world, looked on from seats alongside the boulevard, civilians were cordoned off by police, blocks away from the excitement.
The extravagance and lavishness of an event like last night's Chanel show (the French fashion house chartered over 170 vintage Chevrolets and Cadillacs to transport guests) does call into question whether its inappropriate or even offensive for an international, high fashion brand to mine inspiration from and momentarily occupy a place still ravaged by poverty. Cubans earn on average $12-25 a month and in what way is such a decadent fashion display helping already disillusioned inhabitants of the former Communist country? But that said, some Cubans have welcomed Chanel's spectacle and such developments, delighted that their country is being put on the global stage. Earlier this week Gloria Estefan stated that she thought Karl Lagerfeld's plan to bring the Cruise 2017 show to Cuba was "wonderful", adding that "Cuba was huge in the fashion world. In Cuba B.C. — before Castro — the fashion would come out in Paris, and it would be in Cuba the same day. And it was a very, very elegant country; people dressed to the nines there. If you look at the fashions of Cuba in the 30s, 40s, 50s, it was always cutting edge of fashion. So one day again it shall be."
There's no doubt that Cuba is one of the most culturally rich destinations in the world, so it's unsurprising that the ever-evolving Lagerfeld looked further afield for influences and ideas for his latest collection. Though the luxury label have no plans to open a boutique in Cuba, the Chanel Cruise show coincides with an exhibition at the Factoria Habana, entitled 'Obra en Processo/Work in Progress,' featuring Lagerfeld's original photography, running until May 12.