Last week, I flew halfway across the world to experience what was arguably the fashion show of a lifetime.
Chanel staged the first-ever fashion show in Havana, Cuba, less than a year into the warming of diplomatic relations between Communist-ruled Cuba and the West — and barely two months after US President Barack Obama’s visit.
The venue: The historic Paseo del Prado, a tree-lined boulevard dividing Centro Habana (central Havana) and Old Havana.
The Cuban-French connection? It was redesigned in 1928 by French landscape architect Jean-Claude Nicolas Forestier, who positioned eight bronze statues of lions — Coco Chanel’s favourite animal — at the eight crossroad junctions intersecting the Paseo.
The “Coco Cuba” collection was a breezy mash-up of French chic and Cuban sensuality, perfectly suited for steamy tropical days and sultry nights. Models strolled out in flat brogues, slides and flip-flops (though there was a heel or two). Key pieces included jackets teamed with wide-legged cuffed pants, cheeky logo T-shirts and loads of dresses: From “debutante” calf-length dresses with swirly lace or organza skirts to sequined little numbers, in a palette echoing the bright hues of Havana’s architecture. Almost every girl also wore a hat — love!
Youthful, sizzling hot and utterly wearable — I, for one, can’t wait for this collection to drop in stores.
Gisele Bündchen turning up the heat in Havana
#1 HOT CARS
Some 700 guests from around the world, including celebrities Tilda Swinton, Vanessa Paradis, Gisele Bündchen, Alice Dellal, Gaspard Ulliel and Vin Diesel — in town to film Fast and Furious 8 — were ferried to the show in Havana’s jellybean-hued classic cars. Cuban prime minister Fidel Castro grandson Tony, an aspiring model, also attended the show.
Stella Tennant opening the “Coco Cuba” show
#2 THE CUBAN TUX
Karl Lagerfeld said the show was an homage to the “cultural richness and opening up of Cuba”. Central to the collection was his riff on the guayabera, the traditional Cuba shirt with pockets, shoulder tabs and flat pleats that he dubbed “the Cuban tux” — as worn by Stella Tennant who opened the show.
Models in Panama hats made by atelier Maison Michel and berets
#3 MAD HATS
Cheeky sequined berets recalled French chic as well as Cuban revolutionary hero Che Guevara’s signature headgear. Models also sported Panama hats, embellished with black camellias (Chanel’s favourite flower) or the double C.
Models dancing down the runway as a live band played
#4 A STREET PARTY FINALE
Instead of the traditional parade of models to close the show, duo Ibeyi (consisting of French-Cuban sisters Lisa-Kaindé Diaz and Naomi Diaz), Cuban percussionists and dancers performed alongside the models — who danced down the Paseo.
#5 KARL LAGERFELD… DANCING?
Believe it. At the after-party in the Plaza de la Catedral in Havana Old Town, the Kaiser showed off his moves on the dance floor. It seems he had been, in his youth, an accomplished cha-cha and tango dancer in Paris. “I won contests,” he told WWD.
Photos and video: Chanel