Cuba’s tourism minister announced Wednesday that the number of U.S. visitors to the country doubled this year.
Among them: Fashion house Chanel, which hosted a glitzy show in Havana yesterday. Luxury retailers are hot on the heels of U.S. tourists, newly welcomed onto the island nation. But they come with different motives, looking to associate their brands with the affordable glamor and elegant 1960s decay of the country. While some Americans and Cubans are applauding new business forays there as a potential boon to the economy, others are pushing back against what they view to be exploitation and opportunism.
The U.S. fashion intelligentsia flocked to the private Chanel 2017 Resort show, kicking off the festivities on Carnival Corporation’s Adonia, the first U.S. cruise ship to dock in Havana for more than 50 years. When the 700 guests reached land, they were taxied to the site of the show in a cavalcade of colorful Cadillacs and Oldsmobiles.
Social media lit up over the event, with 25,000 mentions in the last week, according to Brandwatch. A full 85.7 percent of the sentiment was positive, including favorable comments on the clothing and the natural beauty of the locale. Still, others noted it was a particularly contentious choice to host a fashion show in a country without a single Chanel store. Aside from select offerings at department stores, the items are not only inaccessible, but unaffordable to the vast majority of the population, which makes an average $20 a month.
“People are criticizing major brands for ‘taking advantage’ of a country where people do not make much money, or live in the best conditions,” Brandwatch analyst Kellan Terry said. “People also attempt to point out the irony that the vast majority of Cuban citizens could never afford the products being showcased in their country.”
The fashion industry isn’t the only one cashing in on Cuba, though. The “Fast and Furious” film franchise also recently announced plans to shoot its eighth installment in Havana. According to data from Kelly, sentiment over the movie is even more divisive than the Chanel show, with 41.2 percent of posts skewing negative.
The push towards Cuba is part of an effort among American filmmakers who “are eager to take advantage of the island’s distinctive look and feel and its cheap labor,” NPR reported. Indeed, it’s gotten to where some industry insiders have started to call the affordable Cuban capital “Havanawood.”
Image courtesy of Chanel