Chanel brings the catwalk to Cuba
The famed fashion house Chanel turned a crumbling colonial boulevard in Havana into a brightly-lit runway Tuesday, throwing one of the swankiest and star-studded parties the island has seen since Fidel Castro took power in 1959.
Actress and model Tilda Swinton, actor Vin Diesel and supermodel Gisele Bundchen joined members of the Castro family to view the Resort 2017 collection, which saw the brand take over Paseo del Prado, one of the city's central streets that was closed down for the event.
Guests were whisked to the show by dozens of multi-colored 1950's American cars rented for the evening.
"The rented over a hundred old cars," said Victor, one of the drivers of the classic cars hired for the evening by Chanel. "There are not many cars like this left in the city right now."
While tropical rain threatened to interrupt the event, both Cuban and international models showcased the latest clothes from Chanel head designer and creative director Karl Lagerfeld.
The show featured Cuban music and ended with models dancing down the boulevard.
Tight security prevented anyone without a coveted invitation from getting too close but local residents packed balconies along the street to catch a glimpse of some of the stars and the show.
Chanel executives said the French fashion company decided to host Cuba's first major fashion show to highlight the changes taking place on the long-isolated island.
Following Fidel Castro's revolution, private industry was banned as Cuba turned to communism.
But in recent years, Castro's younger brother and current President, Raul Castro, has slowly allowed more capitalism to enter the economy and a consumer culture has again emerged from the shadows.
After decades of Cold War acrimony, the United States and Cuba reestablished diplomatic ties last year. The U.S. still maintains an economic embargo on the island, which only Congress can lift.
President Barack Obama also traveled to Cuba in 2016, the first visit by a U.S. president to the island in nearly 90 years, and in March the Rolling Stones played a free concert in Havana.