Coco Cuba

Margarita Alarcon

"Beauty is the Splendor of Truth". Plato

Karl Lagerfeld's Chanel show in Havana has given new light to the notion of "moving forward." For many Cubans on the island it was a moment of non transcendental history, or a good excuse to get a day off work -- at the request of the fashion house all business establishments on either side of the Prado Promenade, where the show was to take place, were closed for the day due to security. Other Cubans were upset because the show was not going to be public or televised or even filmed or photographed, again, at the request of the fashion house.

For some in the press world it was a novel moment enabling Cuba to take a step forward into the XXI century -- these individuals though some may argue might be well-intentioned, obviously need to do some basic background history checks on Cuba. Modeling and fashion houses are not new to this island. After Fidel's Castro's revolution triumphed in 1959, roughly a decade later, young architects and designers were putting forth their creations and young ladies and men were walking down the proverbial ¨catwalk¨ of revolutionary fashion as it were. In the 1980´s with the creation of CONTEX, a national Cuban house of fashion, young men and women have been training as models and still photography to this day. Alberto Korda, famous for his iconic portrait of Che Guevara, had made a living as a fashion photographer during the 1940´s and 50´s where he met his first wife Norka one of Havana's best know models of the day. So you see, gentlemen of the press, Cubans are not newcomers to the world of either the jet set or fashionistas.

What is unique is that Chanel chose Havana as the first city in Latin America where it has ever put on a show. But Chanel is so very much more than just spaghetti thin young people with perfect bone structure and an ability to go from warm smile to glass eyed fixed stares. It is also has an mobile museum, Chanel Mobile Art, created by Zaha Hadid based on an idea by Kart Lagerfeld, where art works by over 20 aristists from around the world are shown. At this point Chanel is going to great lengths to go beyond just ¨cheeky chic¨.

Yet there are those both inside and outside the island that don't agree with a Socialist government falling prey to what they consider the worst part of the superficial world of today. This might be true, especially if you consider that for the most part the historic concept of the Cuban Revolution has been social justice above all else, so how can the attempt to achieve a social democracy with the aim of justice and equality for all coexist with something like Karl Lagerfeld's designs for this year's spring summer collection?


My mom used to tell me that a true revolutionary had to struggle for all forms of social justice and with this one had to be capable of accepting and embracing of all forms of art and beauty. Like Che Guevara's concept that love has to be that which moves revolution, art beauty, culture, high standards of the true aesthetic should be goals for any true society that banks on social justice; we should aspire to live in a world overflowing with beauty in order to truly create a more perfect living place for all.

The ancient Greeks taught us, democracy, philosophy, mathematics, physics and the need to accept and desire beauty in all its forms. It's a mistake to think that in order to be true to some form of social altruism one must go against things of material beauty or wealth; that is as false a concept as it is hypocritical.

It is in the creation of that perfect stunning society that we must strive to be all inclusive and not exist at the risk of sacrificing the many in favor of the few. Ideally we should live in a world where the season collection of a house like Chanel is available not to a small elite, but rather that the beauty created by such places and minds be available to all; a new form of, let's call it socialized haute couture. It would be fabulous to have put on a show such as the one last week with huge screens visible to all, for free a la Rolling Stones concert.

That wasn't the case. The fashion house can't do something like, at least not yet. Hopefully soon, someday in the not too distant future Havana may be the city where the first ever public open air free fashion show takes place; as revolutionary, beautiful and practical a concept as Coco´s little black dress was back in its day.