In 2014, President Obama reopened the political discussion between Cuba and the United States, and diplomatic relations were formally restored in July of 2015. Here’s a short history lesson, for those who don’t know about the United State’s history with Cuba: our country severed ties with Cuba in 1961, during the Cold War. What also happened in 1961?

The failed Bay of Pigs Invasion, where the United States attempted to overthrow Cuba’s communist government. You can also spend a few moments googling the Cuban Mission Crisis, if you feel so inclined. Fidel Castro was the Communist leader (and then re-named the President) from 1959 – 2008. Castro is widely viewed as a dictator and has committed incredible atrocities in Cuba and around the world.

Karlie Kloss in Vogue's 2014 September issue.
Karlie Kloss in Vogue’s 2014 September issue.

Luckily, ties have been reestablished and the U.S. and Cuba have been working on their relationship recently. However, the delicate balance of the relationship and past historical tensions have seemed to have no influence on the fashion industry.

Within months of the United States releasing that ties with Cuba were on the mend, popular editorial magazines – ahem, Vogue – began posting about how Cuba was the “next it destination,” and even began posting travel guides. The September issue of Vogue (the cornerstone issue of the year) in 2014 also featured Karlie Kloss in a “Cuba-inspired editorial.” A Cuba-inspired editorial featuring a caucasian, blonde-haired, blue-eyed model.

But this past week, it seems as though fashion has become fixated on Cuba. America’s restored relationship with Cuba has seemed to spark a new fascination all around the world, including the international fashion community. This past week, Chanel hosted their Spring-Summer 2017 fashion show in Havana – complete with straw fedoras and colorful convertibles that ushered guests in.

Reports on the show included one from CNN, stating “Chanel in Cuba: Models and the international fashion community dance through the streets of Havana,” and they act as if no one has been dancing in Havana in the past forty years.

Highlights also include this quote: “The famed fashion house Chanel turned a crumbling colonial boulevard in Havana into a brightly-lit runway Tuesday, throwing one of the swankiest and star-studded parties the island has seen since Fidel Castro took power in 1959.”

Chanel's SS17 show in Havana, Cuba.
Chanel’s SS17 show in Havana, Cuba.

The sheer ignorance of this quote is staggering. The tone in this article insinuates that the international community has come in to save Havana. They rebuilt crumbling streets. They held a party! Surely, no one has had a party in Cuba since the United States stopped communicating with the country.

The entire situation reeks of western superiority – if we weren’t involved, then surely the country couldn’t have been developing on its own, with its own culture or traditions. Fashion is acting as though we have just discovered a glorious island paradise and is being completely ignorant to the country’s development since 1961. While the country may have been oppressed under Castro, we haven’t been involved with the country in decades. How are we supposed to know what it’s like now?

How quickly can we rush to appropriate a culture? Apparently, pretty damn fast.

Khloe Kardashian's Instagram.
Khloe Kardashian’s Instagram.

To add salt to the wound, queue the Kardashians – who are also in Cuba this week filming for their reality show. They’ve already added a slew of stereotypes to social media, including photos of the family smoking Cuban cigars and riding around in vintage convertibles. Perhaps the most offensive is a photo of herself that Khloe Kardashian uploaded – underneath a quote by Fidel Castro. The photo sparked immediate controversy, with many users commenting that Castro “was the devil and you [Khloe] should understand that and remove this.”

I just have to wonder – how accurate is the world’s new view into Cuba through the lens of a Chanel fashion show and the Kardashian’s reality show? Going out a limb, I’m going to say not very accurate.