Chanel chose Cuba as the site of its first-ever fashion show in Latin America by designer Karl Lagerfield. Among the celebrity guests at the star-studded May 4 event to present Chanel’s new Cruise collection was supermodel Gisele Bundchen, Vin Diesel (who was there filming the new Fast & Furious movie) and Diana Fuentes.
The Cuban singer/songwriter with the look of an ingénue and a voice that can go from alt to smoky lounge singer was front and center at the show, along with hubby Eduardo Cabra, one half of Puerto Rican rap duo Calle 13. Fuentes wasn’t just an observer. The photogenic, fashion-forward artist, who splits time between her native Havana and Puerto Rico, was acting as one of Chanel’s Cuban ambassadors to the event, clad in a white dress from the Cruise collection.
Fuentes, who is currently working on her upcoming album on Sony Music, spoke exclusively with Billboard about her incursion into high fashion.
How long have you been a fan of Chanel and what has it been like being an official ambassador for the brand?
I’ve always loved the Chanel aesthetic. I love that it’s a very ‘now’ brand, but also very classic. I tend to be classic in my look.
This was the first time Chanel, or any major fashion brand for that matter, had a fashion show in Cuba. How did they do?
From the onset, they tried to recreate particularities of Cuban fashion: The bright colors, the big, vaporous sleeves that bring to mind the popular ‘Congas.’ The ‘Congas’ are popular dances that take place in the street with groups of people, and they’re known for their very bright-colored outfits with big sleeves. All that was somehow present in this collection. They also had olive colors that alluded to the more military aspect of Cuba that marks the launch of the revolutionary movement on the island. And, of course, the classic Chanel black and white. I loved it. And I loved being a guest and wearing their clothes. It was the first time I wore Chanel and I felt very comfortable and super glamorous.
What exactly is your affiliation with Chanel?
I feel like the brand ambassador. They invited me to the show and I’ll also be on the upcoming cover of OnCuba magazine, wearing Chanel.
How did this all come about?
I was on the cover of a Cuban magazine called Garbos. Chanel did some kind of research on artists and celebrities here and they contacted me through the magazine. They took me to New York to choose what to wear.
Did you get to dance with Karl Lagerfield?
I danced everywhere. And I was so happy that they were playing traditional Cuban music. It was one of those moments where either you danced or they made you dance.
Tell me about the music at the event?
They had great musicians. Pianist Aldo López Gavilán was there with Rudy López Murcia on drums, playing with the Havana Chamber Orchestra, directed by my friend Daiana García. We’ve all worked together. And Los Rumberos de Cuba, a traditional ensemble, played the closing with the Conga.
If you had to pinpoint one special moment of the show for you, what would it be?
Simply arriving at Paseo del Prado with my husband and sitting in those reserved seats close to so many friends was amazing. People were leaning from the balconies of the buildings around us, saying hello and just pouring out good will. It was also so exciting to see my musician friends highlighted there. Finally, closing with a Conga de Cuba was very special. Everyone was able to enjoy the moment with no prejudices and just a lot of love.
Beyond having had Chanel in Cuba, what’s your take away from this event?
Cuba is in the midst of a transition where many things are happening and everything is possible. I’m open to all doors and possibilities and to having absolutely anything happen. It’s more than simply opening a window of Cuba to the world. It’s about the artists and the designers who are in Cuba and the ones who come. When an act like the Rolling Stones comes here, more than just seeing them, for us artists, it’s all about the possibility of exchanging information, seeing a top-notch show with top production values. It’s the same thing for a designer, to be able to have access to something like a Chanel show is fundamental. And, in one way or another, it reaches the people.
You can watch the full runway show here: