Cuban fever

Move over, Paris. Cuba, that romantic pastel landscape of Ernest Hemingway’s dreams, is becoming a focal point of fashion.

Thanks to the recent US restoration of diplomatic ties, interest in travel to Cuba — indeed in all things Cuban — has soared. In fact, the US Tour Operators Association named Cuba the top emerging destination for 2016. Fashion designers have taken notice: Chanel’s Karl Lagerfeld, for instance, recently made waves for introducing his 2017 resort line at a major show in Havana. And designers like Donatella Versace and Narciso Rodriguez — one of Michelle Obama’s favorites — love to channel the island in their creations.

Boston has caught the fever, too.

“Havana — its worldliness, its colors — is the next frontier,” says Boston-based stylist Elisha Daniels.

Major labels like Cynthia Rowley, Rae Feather, and Tory Burch (“every single thing looks straight out of Havana!” says Daniels) are embracing the aesthetic with off-the-shoulder ruffle tops, straw bags, and plenty of pom-poms and fringe. Burch’s newest summer line, for instance, is all cream-and-gold, mimicking the sand and the sun. The look has clearly landed here: Daniels points to Boston luxury merchants such as M. Gemi, now showing brightly colored espadrilles, and Serenella, which carries ruffled bathing suits from Lisa Marie Fernandez and ruffled blouses by Ellery.“The explosion of Cuba started before the president even visited’’ in March, says Serenella owner Leslee Shupe. “Fashion is further ahead. We always have Cuba in mind.”

The Cuba craze is seeping into more than clothes. Over at the much-anticipated, just opened Tapestry restaurant in the Fenway, run by former Clio and Coppa staffers, there’s a Havana-meets-Miami-inspired Club Room with palm trees and hand-painted tiles direct from Cuba. Cuban sandwiches appear on summer menus everywhere from the new Winter Hill Brewing Company to Kendall Square’s Catalyst. And the signature cocktail at Assembly Row’s upcoming Southern Kin? The Old Cuban, made with rum, lime, simple syrup, mint, and Prosecco.

Experts expect that Cuba fever will have some staying power but wonder how it will shift as more Americans visit the once-isolated island nation and as Cuba itself is changed by more contact with outsiders.

“Everyone wants to experience Cuba before it turns into the Western world,” says Daniels. And for those of us who can’t hop a flight, there’s plenty of inspiration right here in the city.

Kara Baskin, Globe Correspondent, Boston Globe
June 03, 2016

Kara Baskin can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @kcbaskin. 

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