The hot, sultry island of Cuba may be tiny, but the influence of the culture and style of the 11 million inhabitants can be found throughout the world. Cubans know how to make a statement, whether it is through their inherent ability to handcraft the world’s most sought after cigars, their deep influence in the music world, or the original sense of style found in Cuban fashion. Cuban style transcends location, political differences and the passage of time. What is cool in Cuba, quite frankly, is cool across the world.
Cuba is a virtual tropical melting pot of African, North American, South American and European influences and styles. One common thread of Cuban style for women is the sheer sexiness of the clothes they wear and the confidence with which they wear it. Even when they wear long, floral cotton dresses, the steamy night breezes reveal the curvy, alluring silhouette underneath. Cuban style is all about letting the heat rise through the clothes. The old world artistic workmanship combines seamlessly with modern trends making for a global appeal. Cuban style can go from a steely white silk halter dress to a colorful, tropical print full length skirt without missing a beat. The comfortable linen fabrics splashed wildly with color bring out the tawny tones of the sun-kissed skin of the most beautiful Cuban women. Through the streets, with a backdrop of colonial architecture and palm trees, Cuban style and the women who make it work permeates the humid air and stretches worldwide showing up on runways and in fashion magazines. Last summer, the fashion Bible (known to the rest of the world as Vogue Magazine) did an entire spread called Viva Cuba dedicated to the free-flowing sultry style that the island is known for.
The women are certainly not the only sect of the Cuban population who has left their mark on the world of style and fashion. The men of Cuba proudly wear the guayabera with such ease and distinct style that the government has chosen to actually declare this four pocketed linen Cuban style shirt the official dress garment of Cuba. It is required for government officials to wear a guayabera at state functions. The shirt with front pleats, made to hold cigars and clippers perfectly, even has its own museum honoring its influence on the culture. The guayabera has left its mark as the epitome of comfort, class, sex appeal, and sophistication all rolled into one.
The distinct style that personifies Cuba is cropping up everywhere, including on celebrity skin such as Sarah Jessica Parker and Claire Danes, thanks to a number of successful Cuban designers. Nicole Sainz DiRocco takes her inspiration straight from the beaches of Cuba. Her Nicolita Swimwear Collection was shown at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Show. Isabel Toledo worked tirelessly to project her designs onto the global stage. When the gold, gorgeous and glittery jacket and dress she designed graced the long and elegant figure of Michelle Obama at her husband’s inauguration, she certainly got the world-wide attention and admiration her clothing designs deserve. Another Cuban designer, Narciso Rodriguez has also made a global splash by bringing the unique clean and comfortable style of Cuba to the heights of the fashion world. He worked his way up at Donna Karan and Calvin Klein. He was thrust to the forefront of fashion when Carolyn Bassette Kennedy chose his sleek, silk slip dress to walk down the candlelit aisle of a rural Georgia church when she married John F. Kennedy in 1996. Many other designers are tapping into this tropical, Caribbean lifestyle for inspiration and showing their creations at top fashion shows around the world.
Many run way shows and collections are borrowing from the island life with chunky metal and pearl encrusted jewelry, halter gowns that graze the floor or sand, sheer fabrics, linen and ruffle accents, and vibrant colors like mango and orange. Basically, anywhere you look, you will find yourself being sucked into the wildly magnetic pull of the fashions, culture and lifestyle of the place everyone wants to have a piece of Cuba.