Chanel presented its 2016-2017 Cruise collection in Havana this past May in an unprecedented fashion show that included three Cuban models.
The event took place on a stretch of the emblematic Paseo del Prado, alive with culture and the reality of the island, with international celebrities and a select Cuban audience watching.
Among the glamorous Chanel models were Cubans Guadalupe Blázquez (Lupe), Yoana Borrego and Yessica Borroto, who described their participation in the event as ‘a huge opportunity’, ‘a tremendous experience’, ‘unforgettable’. Two months before the show, casting was done via photographs. Lupe and Yoana were selected from some 20 applicants. Yéssica came in at the last minute, almost by chance.
Yessica’s knowledge of English got her working as a hostess for representatives of the fashion house, and the first day of the trials they asked her if she wanted to model. “I was in shock,” she said to CubaPlus. “I thought I was going to see the show, not be part of it.”
Lupe is a musician, she plays saxophone and is a graduate of the Amadeo Roldan Conservatory. She had very little previous modeling experience and said she was very nervous. “The fact that Chanel chose me was surreal, I was afraid of the expectations, but I’m satisfied with the results.” Modeling is a passion for her and she has had some proposals, but points out that it is a short-lived career, unlike music. “I will continue studying music and dedicate myself to that.”
Yoana trained with the Actuar modeling agency and values her experience with the French fashion house, which was a big challenge. “We rehearsed only twice the day before and again the day of the show. There were three exits at three different points and you didn’t know where you were expected to go”.
“If they call me, I’ll keep modeling for as long as I can,” said Yoana, who loves the catwalk and the last-minute jitters. She is proud to have been part of this show, but wishes that other Cuban models and designers could have seen it live.
Yessica is an actress. She graduated from the National School of Art, and is now studying at the Superior Art Institute. She said that she was instructed to think of everyone as though they were from Cuba and to be as natural as possible, as if taking a walk in the park, and that’s how it was. “I don’t have to pretend I’m Cuban because I am”.
She is now considering some proposals, but her main objective is to finish her university studies. Pieces in Caribbean blue and the Cuban revolution’s signature olive green offset sequined Che Guevara berets and Afro-cuban inspired prints in the collection presented at halftime.
Karl Lagerfeld, legendary designer and creative director of the brand for more than three decades, was inspired by “Cuba’s cultural richness and openness to the world,” the Chanel house said in a statement on deciding to include Havana on a tour of its Cruise collection, which it has also brought to Miami, Venice, Singapore, Dubai and Seoul.
The young Cuban models hope that this event will bring them opportunities in the complex, alluring fashion world. They are talented, smart, attractive models who, beyond Karl Lagerfeld’s design details, put a real touch of Cubanía on the Parisian maison’s runway.