It's been a busy few days for the fashion elite. On Sunday night, there was the glamorous occasion of President Obama's final White House Correspondents' dinner — then, on Monday night, the Met Gala. Many attendees then jumped straight onto planes bound for the Caribbean, for last night's Chanel cruise '17 show in Cuba. Set on Havana's Paseo del Prado, a historic boulevard that leads to the city's cultural center, this was a fashion first — since travel restrictions to the island were only recently lifted, in March. The catwalk and its fascinating 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 colorful architecture of the colonial avenue, La Habana Vieja. But while the glamorous invitees looked on from seats alongside the boulevard, civilians were cordoned off by police, blocks away from the excitement. Despite the tight security, some locals gathered on the balconies of surrounding buildings to watch the spectacle unfold, CNN reports. Stella Tennant opened the show in a Guayabera-inspired 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 colorful as the Cuban buildings in the backdrop. The show closed with a conga line, as models danced down Prado to the lively drumbeats and singing of a Cuban band.
The extravagance of an event like last night's Chanel show (the French fashion house chartered over 170 vintage Chevrolets and Cadillacs to transport guests, per Vogue UK) does call into question whether it was inappropriate — or offensive, even — for an international luxury brand to mine inspiration from and momentarily occupy a place still ravaged by poverty. The majority of Cubans, employed by the state, earn on average $25 a month, according to Reuters. How, exactly, does such a decadent fashion display help (or even take into account, really) the inhabitants of the Communist-ruled country? Especially considering that some residents were barred from the event, as locals hoping to catch a glimpse of the show lamented. 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 told New York that she thought Karl Lagerfeld's plan to bring the cruise 2017 show to Cuba was "wonderful," adding that the country had a long history with the fashion world before Castro. In Havana, Marilia Veliz, an accountant, explained to Reuters about the show's significance: "Just because I can't afford it doesn't mean I want to deny others that luxury. And who knows, maybe one day. It's important to dream."
There's no doubt that Cuba is a culturally rich destination, and it's unsurprising that the ever-evolving Lagerfeld, who has culled inspiration from far-flung places all over the world, looked to the country for ideas for his latest collection. Though the luxury label currently has 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; it features Lagerfeld's original photography and will run until May 12.