Habaneros are a special lot. Guilty of multiple crimes of fashion and poor taste from the yonky to the most outrageous lycra outfits and ridiculously short skirts, they manage even in the midst of economic crisis and with precious few shopping options to display a casual and nonchalant style and elegance that brooks little comparison. Maybe they are simply better looking, maybe they are not so constrained by this season’s latest trends, maybe they just do rather than agonise. Whatever it is, Havana style is an eclectic mix of the good, the bad and the beautiful. A timeless classic locked in its own rhythm. The Arte y Moda fashion show—which pairs together Cuban artists and designers—is now in its 7th year and is undoubtedly true to this spirit. This year’s show was dedicated to extreme clothes, as if the inhabitants of this gregarious city would need any encouragement!
Arte y Moda is not an attempt to rival the shows which festoon the international capitals of the world, there is no works of Gucci, Versace, Victoria Beckham or Stella McCartney here. Instead it is at once very Cuban, imaginative, different, homespun. Cuban artists paired with Cuban designers and the work which is produced represents a synthesis of the artist’s work in the design of the outfits. The effect can be spectacular or disastrous in equal measure.
This year’s show, held from Nov 13-17, 2012 was titled “Trajes Extremos” (Extreme Clothes) and took place at the Cuban Building of the Fine Arts Museum in Havana. The director of the event, Rafael Méndez González, made it clear that the emphasis was on the use of innovative materials that would give way to a new concept of fashion design.
The event showcased interesting and daring clothes both in their design and manufacture. Unconventional materials from nature or recycled were used as “fabrics” or accessories: newspapers, shower curtains and bicycle parts, among many other, were used to create these extreme clothes.
The models not only walked along the runway showing the bold designs. They became actors playing the role of what they wore, creating an entirely different interaction between the public and the work of art. The work of well-known Cuban artists served as inspiration for the designs: Roberto Fabelo, Rigoberto Mena, Kcho, Zaida del Rio and Mendive, who surprised the audience when he and his model came out accompanied by musicians Carlos Alfonso and Ele Valdés, creators of the popular fusion band Síntesis. Each outfit had a story to tell and the models/actors gave each a character and a life of its own.
The event was preceded the day before with a series of lectures by special guests Julia Poteat and Catharina Cosin, members of the Parson School of Design, New York, and a photographic exhibition by Alex Castro of each of the 27 outfits.