Havana Fashion Week favours everyday simplicity over luxury

Posted: 14-Nov-17 09:16

It may not have received the worldwide attention of London Fashion Week, New York’s, Paris or Milan’s but Cuba did indeed celebrate its fashion week last month, much to the acclaim of locals as well as some foreign guests taking a particular interest in the way Cuban designers experience and envision fashion. It was a colourful parade full of practical, sensual and flowy pieces where those in attendance got to gauge local designers’ sense for style.

Havana Fashion Week favours everyday simplicity over luxury

The third edition of Havana Fashion Week came to an end on 1st November 2017 after seven days of fabric flurry, designer innovation and crowds’ excitement. It saw a total of 46 different shows take to the catwalk and a wide variety of artisanal items parade down the runway, from jewellery and leather accessories to the more obvious clothing pieces.

Held at Old Havana’s former Tobacco and Timber Warehouse (Antiguo Almacen de la Madera y El Tabaco) this edition featured goods from 71 independent designers, supported by the Cuban Association of Artisan Artists and UNESCO.

A far cry from the futuristic, extravagant, cutting-edge or overly elaborate designs of London or New York, the Cuban designs which were all 100% Made in Cuba with no exceptions, looked lightweight and breezy, sensual with some daring transparencies and featuring symbols of Cuban identity, such as the “mariposa” national flower and the alteration of traditional guayaberas with “cold shoulders”.

Despite the originality and freshness of the designs, overall simplicity and practicality prevailed in a country that faces several challenges when it comes to innovation and creative design due to the severe scarcity or shortage of materials.

Jesus Carmona, a 50-year-old designer and member of the organising committee explained:

“We are a country under (American) embargo; we are not able to import fabric and other things, so we make our collections with what we can find.”

Bringing together veterans like Elsa Ruiz, famous for her tie-dye garments in chiffon and flimsy cotton, as well as young artists, the collections featured sheer fabrics heavily in a country where summer is eternal. On this last point, she says that her contribution is:

“Fashion made in Cuba for Cuba”

This last point becomes evident in the way that items are adapted to the needs and tastes of the island’s light and bright climate.
A completely different experience to the Cuban Cruise Collection 2017/2018 presented by Channel in Havana’s very public Paseo del Prado in May 2016, fashion week in Havana was hosted at the very same place where President Barack Obama interacted with local entrepreneurs in March 2016.

The pieces reflect he everyday local fashion attire with an elevated sense of refinery, with themes that work around crafts and local identity, incorporating African influences as well as Spanish knitting techniques, with elegant crocheted pieces as well as suggestive, more provocative ones.

During the event’s weeklong duration, Yamara Garcia was one of the most applauded young designers and of her success in playing with traditional items like guayabera shirts, she explained:

"The idea was to create a more modern image while keeping it very Cuban...to rescue this typical article while making it much more contemporary with both men's and women's versions."

Thanks to the slow opening of Cuba’s private sector economy, start-up clothing businesses like Clandestina have popped up. Clandestina thus became Cuba’s first independent and privately owned fashion store, and also the first to market and sell its own designs around the world through its own website.

Of his Cuban fashion line, Carmona added:

“It's ready to wear, affordable clothes which you can wear every day, in the evening, for cocktails, or even for work. It's a concentrate of Cuban traditions.” 

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