Havana Nights


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As the temperature shoots up, we take a look at the islands to getsome fashion inspo to combat the heat in the Cuban way
Words Yvonne Jacob

The Cubans surely do know how to handle some heat and they do so in style. The semi-tropical weather of the Caribbean demands people to wear loose-fitted clothing and lighter fabrics. There’s no doubt that Cuba has offered us a lot of things in terms of fashion, music, food and also an extensive colour palette. Right from the buildings that are lovingly coated in contrasting hues to pastel and pop coloured Chevys rolling down the streets, Cuba’s landscape is as vibrant as its culture. The typical traditional attire of a Cuban man is the Guayabera. A plain white shirt made of linen or cotton with two vertical rows of alforzas (tiny pleats) sewn along the length of the front and back sides of the shirt. Women too wear a similar version of the guayabera that is slightly long like a dress and has more colour options. 

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While the origin of the garment is not well-known, a documented Cuban story tells of a poor countryside seamstress sewing large patch pockets onto her husband’s shirt so he can carry guayabas (guavas) from the field. The theory, in a way, explains why the shirts have two or four front patch pockets. While another theory talks about a Spanish immigrant couple arriving in Sancti Spiritus in 1709 and residing along the Yayabo River. The husband asked the wife to make him a shirt with four large pockets so he could store his cigars and belongings while he worked. According to reports from 2010, the foreign ministry of Cuba had ordered officials to wear the guayabera to state functions, making it an official dress garment.

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However, over time the Cuban culture infiltrated the biggest fashion houses and their sorbet colours inspired designers to reimagine the beauty of Cuba in their collections. Latin styles like tiered ruffle skirts, exaggerated sleeves, brightly coloured embroidered shirts and blouses found a place in the fashion industry. In 2015, Donatella Versace launched her Spring/Summer men’s collection that reflected the tones of Cuba in its garments. The white jeans, whichis very famous in Cuba, was given a different spin and embroidered in gold palm leaves accompanied by lace-like embroidery. The Spring 2016 ready-to-wear collection byTemperly London had radiant colours, pastels streets with an authentic 1950s vibe, creating an instantly attractive allure. The collection showcased a variety of relaxed silhouettes andcreative tailoring. Among these shows was the most famous one by Karl Lagerfeld who delivered Chanel’s Resort show in 2016. The couture show was set and delivered on Cubansoil with a number of famous celebrities attending the show including Vin Diesel and the Kardashians.

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Exploring the Cuban trend further, a lot of influences are seen in western fashion with people sporting fedoras and tropical prints and colours. The frenzy even took over accessories and gave us printed shoes, ties, suspenders and also the Cuban collar. Bold like its colour palette, the less explored culture of Cuba was a breath of fresh air for the world of fashion. It inspired designers and people to explore and experiment further with fashion and make bigger, bolder fashion choices. With the season taking a sharp turn towards bright and warm summers to look forward to, why not battle this heat the Cuban way with a dash of style?