As Chanel Prepares Havana Fashion Show, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen Beefs with Designer Karl Lagerfeld

As Chanel Prepares Havana Fashion Show, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen Beefs with Designer Karl LagerfeldEXPAND
Image via Ileana Ros-Lethinene/WikiCommons

As if Cuba needed another dictator, fashion's reigning tyrant, Karl Lagerfeld, will present Chanel's 2017 Cruise collection in Havana tonight. It will be the first major fashion show by an international brand in Cuba in decades, but not everyone is pleased. 

Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has taken to Twitter multiple times over the past few weeks to troll Lagerfeld's decision to hold the show in the communist country by calling attention to Cuba's numerous human rights violations. 

Each Tweet is paired with a photo of Cuba's Ladies in White, a group that uses its own fashion statement to protest the Castro regime. Made up of the wives and daughters of jailed dissidents, the women attend Mass each Sunday in white clothing, and then silently walk through the streets of Havana.

Since the group's 2003 formation, they have been met by counter-protestors several times, and some incidents have led to mass arrests. Most recently, Cuban officials jailed more than 50 members of the Ladies in White just hours before President Obama arrived in April. 

Though, not everyone who supports the Ladies in Whites is necessarily opposed to the Chanel fashion show. Singer Gloria Estefan and her husband Emilio have used their considerable celebrity to bring attention to the group's plight several times. But they also spoke favorably of the Chanel show last month. When asked by New York's The Cut last month, Gloria described the idea of the show as "wonderful," and Emilio added that it was "great for the Cuban people." 

“Listen, it doesn’t matter, it’s there, the image is there, they’re seeing beautiful clothes, they’re seeing fashion,” Gloria added when asked if it matters that most Cubans couldn't afford Chanel's pricey wares. 

Basically, Ros-Lehtinen and her ilk feel that Cuba should not be glorified with international attention until all of the country's problems are addressed, while Estefan and other seems to take the view that the outside world directly connecting with Cuba is ultimately good for its people. 

Indeed, there is something almost subversive about anti-Capitalist Cuba hosting a fashion house that has so perfectly mastered the art of capitalism that it can charge a pretty premium simply because its name is attached to an item. Then again, there is something a bit out of touch by celebrating that extreme glamour in a country where so many get by on so little. 

For what's its worth, as a French company, there was nothing technically forbidding Chanel from showing in Cuba before the recent thaw in relations between Havana and Washington. 

In any event, so far the Twitter feud has remained one-sided. Neither Lagerfeld nor Chanel have responded to Ros-Lehtinen.


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