RAMON ESPINOSA/AP PHOTO
The Paris fashion house makes history debuting their newest collection in the streets of Havana, but we really came to see the rainbow of vintage rides.
On Tuesday, the luxury fashion brand led by their legendary Creative Director, Karl Lagerfeld, stormed the streets of Havana, Cuba to host their Resort 2017 Collection runway show. While this is Chanel's first show in Latin America, Lagerfeld has been known for his destination fashion shows. He's hosted shows in Versailles, Singapore, Dubai, and Seoul, just to name a few. With the recent lift of the travel ban on the country, Lagerfeld saw this moment in history to seize the opportunity of the "cultural richness and opening up of Cuba."
Hundreds of members of the fashion community were ushered to the island, just 90 miles from the tip of Key West, to attend the event. In true Chanel fashion, the beauty was all in the details.
On the day of the show, over 100 classic American cars in a rainbow of colors filled the parking lot of the Hotel Nacional in Havana, an assorted bag of skittles if viewed from the sky. The classic cars waited to shuttle guests over to the show's glossy runway on Paseo del Prado, the dividing street between Centro Habana and Old Havana.
Cuba is an incredible scene for any automotive enthusiast. As a result of a four-decade-long ban on foreign vehicle imports, American cars have been off-limit to Cuba since 1960. Therefore, the country acts as a time capsule, bringing you back to the 1950s. The guests of the show were driven away in an array of beautiful vintage vehicles from Ford, Chevrolet, Buick, Oldsmobile, Ply mouth, and Pontiac — each car frozen in time on the streets of Cuba.
Seeing so many beautiful cars in one place can send you into shock and awe, after all this is coming from the girl who cried when I walked into the Grand Palais in Paris last year. It was the concourse day of the Tour Auto Optic 2000, and I have never before seen such a collection of incredible machines all in one place.
With that being said, it's one thing to go to a museum or an annual vintage rally, but to see these cars living and breathing on the streets is an entirely different experience. In Cuba, these classic American cars are used as taxis and daily drivers — an everyday mode of transportation for the population, which is truly incredible to witness.
While the cars remain classic in their shapes, like the city itself, the vehicles are painted in bright blues, purples, greens, and yellows, not native to their original 1950's counterparts. While the paint colors on the cars have changed, most of the parts have too. Since the country's embargo on vehicles also meant an embargo on car parts, many of the classic cars seen on the streets in Cuba are a mix of internal organs. Most of the time the vehicles are made of a hodge podge of modified pieces, anything to keep them running.
The lift of Cuba's travel ban and Chanel's beautifully orchestrated runway show is just the tip of the iceberg for the nation. While the beauty of the colorful cars of the 1950s grab my eye and pull my heart in the most, it's a very obvious remind of forced embargo 40 years prior. With hopes that more and more people will get to experience the allure and romanticism of the country, I garuntee the automotive enthusiast will be swept away. After all, the candy-coated paint jobs await your arrival just outside the airport terminal.