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Life in Cuba Ain’t Glamorous

Gabriella Hoffman
by Gabriella Hoffman Read Profile arrow_right_alt

Communist Cuba is supposedly the hottest fashion destination this year.

Fashion powerhouses like Chanel have staked out the tyrannical tropical island to showcase the latest in fashion. As a result, fashionistas are looking to break into Havana this spring.

Who knew that a communist country could be so chic with its omnipresent poverty, human rights abuses, and tyranny?

Renowned Chanel fashion designer and creative director Karl Lagerfeld, 82, has chosen the so-called “Rome of the Caribbean” for its “cultural richness” and newfound “openness” to showcase his 2017 Cruise Collection Show on May 3, 2016. Lagerfeld is known for his eccentricity and sometimes questionable locations for shows. One fashion blog noted this back in October:

According to a release from Chanel, the “cultural richness and opening up of Cuba” has long inspired Lagerfeld, and if his past collections are any indication, there will certainly be plenty of the country’s lively, colorful flavor injected into the clothing. However, this does bring up the question of whether or not it’s insensitive for a luxury label to descend upon — and to borrow heavily from aesthetically — a country still rife with poverty?

Lagerfeld told Vogue several months ago he’d love to do a show in Cuba.

The fashion and lifestyle magazine Town & Country Magazine published an article on April 7th about an upcoming fashion show to be held in Havana next month. In the article “Where to Stay in Cuba for the Chanel Show“, Style Writer Sarah Bray notes how difficult having a show in the communist country would be, especially for those in the fashion industry who ironically admire Cuba but enjoy luxuries created by capitalism:

But travel details are still up in the air. Chanel has a reputation of being able to pull anything off, but a luxury event of epic proportions in a communist country with still-strict visa, commerce, and trade laws?

 It will be interesting to watch the production unfold via Instagram as always…. WAIT, cell phones hardly work in Cuba and wifi is extremely limited! Will bloggers and editors actually have to watch the show instead of fiddling with Snapchat filters?

Lagerfeld is not alone. Other American celebrities and dignitaries have lauded Havana as a cool, “hip” place whilst ignoring the communist overtones or have excused them.

President Obama recently partied with Raul Castro during his recent trip to Cuba and even stood in front of a Che Guevara mural. Rapper Jay-Z and his wife Beyonce celebrated their anniversary in Cuba in April 2013–a spectacle that rightfully drew a lot of controversy. Hotel heiress Paris Hilton ventured to Havana in February 2015 with model Naomi Campbell and took a selfie with the son of Fidel Castro.

To the fashionistas anticipating world-class luxury in Havana: don’t get your hopes up. Cuba is still communist, after all.

Violent crime in Cuba is quite high

State-run media has painted this caricature of a “safe” Cuba like any Pravda-like institution would do: to cover for their surrogates in government. Much to the chagrin of Castro apologists, Cuba is far from safe. Tourists are the victims of senseless deaths in the present day. Cuba remains a police state and has been such since 1959.

Life in Cuba is far from glamorous

Abject poverty, shoddy buildings, and unsanitary hospitals dominate the landscape. If you’re longing for the 1950s pre-revolutionary Havana, good luck finding it. Only those in government who are wealthy enjoy glitz and glamour. The majority of Cubans are poor and have no idea what Chanel is–nor could they ever afford it.

Few will have access to the fashion show

 In typical communist fashion, this show–as sanctioned by the Cuban government–won’t be open to the public. It’ll be solely reserved for the elites. Regular Cubans can only dream of attending these events.

Most people desire and should desire a prosperous, free Cuba. I would love to see Cuba free from the shackles of the Castro regime in my lifetime–but have serious doubts, like others, on how it’ll achieve freedom.

The harsh realties behind the Tropical Curtain are far from glamorous. Giving legitimacy to the regime–especially with a fashion show right in the heart of Havana–will affirm the continual whitewashing of crimes and blatant human rights abuses committed by the regime.

Communism isn’t cool, nor is it glamorous; it’s horrendous and dehumanizing. Without free enterprise, the fashion industry would cease to exist. This move by Lagerfeld/Chanel to host a fashion show in Havana is imprudent and disrespectful at best.


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