A star-studded private celebration of Chanel landed on the shores of socialist Cuba this spring with “the world’s rich and famous were lounging on park benches on the majestic, colonial Prado boulevard as slender models showed off outfits from Chanel’s 2017 Resort collection that seemed inspired by pre-revolutionary Cuba,” according to the AP. The Paris-based brand’s one hundred-plus guests arrived to take in the pricey resort collection by way specially hired classic American cars. Havana residents had to watch from behind police lines more than a block away.

As noted by CNN, “Tight security prevented anyone without a coveted invitation from getting too close but local residents packed balconies along the street to catch a glimpse of some of the stars and the show.” 

Not surprisingly, Chanel is catching quite a bit of flak for the production, which came just hours before the first U.S. cruise ship docked in Havana in nearly 40 years. Following Fidel Castro’s revolution, private industry was banned as Cuba turned to communism. However, things changed in recent years as Castro’s younger brother and current President, Raul Castro, has slowly permitted more capitalism to enter the economy and after decades of Cold War bad blood, the United States and Cuba reestablished diplomatic ties last year. 

That does not obscure the wild ironies, though. Tim Blanks, writing for BoF, nailed this in his review, writing: “The fundamental incongruity of the moment was lost on no one. Cuba is very poor, Chanel is not. Cuba is only now relaxing from the rigours of Fidel Castro’s communist dream, Chanel has long benefited from different dreams, the ones Karl Lagerfeld realises with the bottomless capitalist resources of a huge French fashion house.”