Chanel Resort Show 2016/17

Chanel presented its Cruise show 2016/2017 collection in Havana, Cuba.

It was Chanel that started the new lark of traveling Resort shows—immersive summertime trips to evermore far-flung locations—and Dior, Louis Vuitton, and Gucci have been joining in. Occasionally, it has to be said that descriptions of spectacular locations can overshadow collections that aren’t so worth writing home about. But with this show, Karl Lagerfeld achieved it all: a spectacular locale at a historic turning point in international relations, and a collection that was relatable, wearable, exquisitely made, and joyfully youthful.

Trust Karl to find the symbol of French-Cuban entente cordiale in a piece of clothing. That would be the beret in this case—ultra-French in origin, but also inescapably Che Guevara. There were sparkly black versions scattered throughout, as well as panamas with Chanel camellias tucked into the hatbands.

Here was Chanel at full range—black spencer jackets over wide-legged cuffed pants; “debutante” dresses with swirly skirts hitting calf length in lace or organza; skinny long tube dresses in macramé or tattered tweed; huge floaty dresses, neatly belted, in ’50s car prints. The Chanel embroiderers had pulled out all the stops, decorating sleeves with dense layers of tattered fabric (a subtle homage to Hispanic ruffles, surely) and sequin-encrusting little dresses in the peachy-pinks, lemony-oranges, and greeny-blues you see in every direction in the intensely beautiful cityscape of Havana. It would have played wrongly if it had looked too posh and distant, or then again, trying too hard to be referential. What made it work, in essence, was the easy styling, with T-shirts and flats, a casual attitude that the models clearly felt happy in.

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