Chanel’s Cruise 2017 Collection Channels Havana’s Colorful Culture

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Lagerfeld is keenly attuned to the colors, sights, and sounds of Havana.

On January 3, 1961, the United States and Cuba severed diplomatic ties, and for the next 54 years Cuba existed in relative isolation. Half a century later, Cuba and the United States have repaired relations to the point where travel is now allowed to the country, and tourists are beginning to flood its colorful streets once again. Cuba’s innate beauty and untouched-by-time nature have been something of a magnet for creative types, so it came as little surprise that Karl Lagerfeld would select Havana for Chanel’s Cruise 2017 show.

On May 3, 2016, models, editors, VIPs, and celebrities like Vin Diesel, Tilda Swinton, and Gisele Bündchen descended on Havana in fashionable droves, where they were driven around the city in a convoy of colorful vintage cars to local destinations like Ernest Hemingway’s home and the unveiling of Lagerfeld’s special photography exhibit called ‘Obra En Proceso / Work in Progress’.

Photo: Courtesy of Chanel

Like for his Spring/Summer 2016 show in Paris, Lagerfeld made sure everyone was given a “front row” seat by arranging his guests on either side of a wide peninsula in the center of El Paseo del Prado. While the former ran more along the lines of a traditional salon showing, yesterday’s event unfurled under an open sky. Magic can happen when cultures collide and begin to rub off on each other, and Lagerfeld is keenly attuned to the colors, sights, and sounds of Havana. He worked the city’s lush pastels and vibrant candy colors into a dazzling selection of breezy skirts, outerwear appointed with a colorful vintage-car pattern, sequin-trimmed lime-green shrunken separates, and rainbow-striped dresses.

Magic can happen when cultures collide and begin to rub off on each other, and Lagerfeld is keenly attuned to the colors, sights, and sounds of Havana.

In a clever meeting of the 1970s and the 1920s, Lagerfeld orchestrated a perfectly insouciant look by way of a pastel tweed suit with the jacket worn open to reveal a vintage-inspired ringer tee beneath. Ringer tees and other items that harkened to the past were the kind of clothes you might have seen the country’s hip young things wearing back in the 1960s before the borders closed, while louche separates signaled easeful island living in the time of Ernest Hemingway. In order to amplify the youthful, carefree mood of this collection, many looks were worn with flat slip-on sandals and sequined single-strap backpacks. The presence of the oft-maligned hipster fedora made sense given Cuba’s propensity for the chapeau, but might be a hard sell for those who are already “so over” the look.

At the end of the show, a frisson of thrill ran through the crowd as a prismatic swirl of color emerged in the form of models dancing to congo music down the promenade and Lagerfeld appeared in a gold sequined jacket by Saint Laurent, which sparkled in the dusky Havana evening. Guests flooded the promenade to gossip after the show before heading back to their vintage vehicles and on to the after-party, painting a glamorous picture of Cuba unlike any we’ve seen before.

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