Fashion has long been inspired by the allure of Cuba, and the island is definitely having a moment this year. Yesterday’s announcement that Chanel would host its Cruise 2017 collection in Havana did not strike me as totally out of the blue. The fashion house stages its Cruise show in a different locale every year, from St Tropez to Singapore and Cuba seemed like an appropriate choice, especially given the buzz surrounding the warming relations between the US and Cuba.
As much as I love fashion, the industry is not always known for cultural sensitivity, and I question the tact of parading some of the most expensive clothing in the world around a country where the average salary is $20 a month. How many editorials have we seen shot on the streets of Havana, with models frolicking in brightly colored luxurious prints while Cuban locals are treated as props, if they are pictured at all? What will be the positive economic impact for the Cuban people of having the fashion crowd descend on the island for the show and its surrounding festivities? NYFW is a proven money maker, bringing the city almost $1 billion in revenue so the opportunity for a major capital infusion has been presented; only time will tell what the impact on the Cuban economy will be.