Does Cuba need luxury fashion?
Hooray for the lifting of the Cuban embargo. Now America can smack Cuba with some capitalism and export Kardashians. And for good measure, why not host a high priced luxury goods fashion show in Havana’s Paseo de Prado—the center between Old and New Havana.
Okay fine, we did not export the Kardashians. They went on their own and returned. :-/
But Chanel Cruise 2017 was just hosted in Cuba on May 3rd. This show was the first international fashion show held in Cuba since its communist revolution. And Chanel’s first Latin American show.
Top 3 ways Lagerfeld’s Chanel Cruise 2017 was inspired by Cuba:
- Chanel’s pearl studded sequined hat is reminiscent of both a Parisian beret and Che Guevara. The beret is a perfect hybrid of French and Cuban culture. Of course, Lagerfeld opted for Chanel’s logo instead of a star.
- Chanel’s collection has many classic and modern pieces utilizing ’50s car prints. Although spare parts to American made cars were hard to come by, Cubans have maintained their ’40s and ’50s vehicles. —For an affordable option that is more retro, check out this cheaper option: a 50’s A-Line Cadillac Print Dress.
- Chanel’s clutch with a cigar box design is a nod to Cuba’s product with the most mystique. And now that this formerly forbidden fruit is legal, Chanel is teaching us how to up-cycle the wooden boxes left over from cigar parties.
These looks are inspired by Cuba and were showcased there but will not be sold in Cuba.
These designs will only come close to being sold on the island if some Cubana decides to supplement her new AirBNB income* by introducing the island to some counterfeit fashion. And even then this crafty Cubana would probably end up selling these goods to Americans.
Counterfeiters do not have Robin Hood ethics or Che Guevara ideals.
Counterfeit fashion businesses would not succeed in Cuba.
Fashion infringers are in the counterfeit game for money. Even counterfeit Chanel goods would cost well beyond the monthly salary of the average Cuban. The monthly wages of the average Cuban is less than $30/month.**
Chanel’s show carefully exploited the culture of Cuba’s golden age.
Rather than allow a cultural group’s vibrant spirit inspire a colorful line with intriguing textures, some designers just appropriate existing cultural designs and customs. I am glad that Lagerfeld at least made real effort to incorporate Cuban inspiration; however, this line feels a bit exploitative and very far from an equal society.
Cuba is made up of picture-perfect dilapidated landscapes reminiscent of wandering into a perfectly designed section of Disney World with purposely weathered colonial style architecture. The fashion and style is parallel to Wiz Khalifa’s closet.
Was Chanel pushing Capitalism on Cuba?
Translating abject poverty into something commodifiable or trendy is increasingly a by-product of designers getting inspired by cultures.
Chanel Cruise 2017 show was held in a public square but it was not open to the public. Only an elite group of rich Cubans were allowed to attend. Fidel Castro’s grandson, Tony Castro, was one of Lagerfeld’s invitees and walked the show.
Cuba’s gap between rich and poor, which was greatly reduced in preceding decades, is beginning to widen again. Of course, Chanel’s actions are not the only ones fueling capitalism in Cuba.
It will be interesting to see if Cubans develop new sartorial cravings… that lead to counterfeit goods.
** The average state salary in Cuba rose in 2013 to $20 a month