Chanel meets Cuba – Ruffling Feathers

Decipher the truth from behind the lens – Who really has control of your opinions? Georgia Scobie looks behind the headlines to see how marketing can manipulate your views on almost anything.

Advertising is the art of arresting the human intelligence
just long enough to get money from 
– Chuck Blore, 2000

Although it’s nice to feel as though you can see beyond the falsities of the media, and brand image, sometimes it’s not that easy. I recently read about Chanel’s ‘wonderful’ fashion show in Cuba and my first impression was ‘how great this must be for relations between Cuba and the Western world’. Historically, things have been far from perfect. But after a little digging, I began to see things differently…

First we had U.S President, Barack Obama stepping foot on Cuban soil, the first time in nearly a century. Then, the likes of Gisele Bündchen and Vin Diesel descended upon Cuba for Chanel’s runway show extravaganza. Was this a sign of warming relations with the West, or a reminder of the extreme difference in wealth between the West and this Communist-ruled Island?

For decades Cuba suffered hostile relations with a number of Western countries, but peace seemed to have been restored when France and the U.S joined forces to present the Chanel Runway show in the capital, Havana. Well, that’s what we were led to believe because of the infinite positive media we were bombarded with. The press went wild for this significant historic mark but some would say, doth protest too much, methinks…

With striking headings such as ‘Chanel takes Cuba’ and ‘Chanel glamour comes to now fashionable Cuba’, why would the West think anything other than how fabulous it is that Chanel are bringing this underprivileged country tourism and recognition. But what did this show do for Cuba? Cubans weren’t allowed anywhere near the grounds and homeless people were cleared from the streets so as not to distract from the perfect image of French fashion brand, Chanel. Lagerfeld had claimed he’d been inspired by the ‘cultural richness’ in Cuba. Ironic as he also made sure the show was completely separated from Cuba’s civilisation. The influence of the press can be manipulative, offering the public a pair of rose-tinted glasses. To me, this isn’t something to thank Chanel for, it’s something to be offended by. The world of fashion is about putting on a show, and this time, Cuba was simply their stage.

Only three of the models were actually Cuban, the hundreds of others were American or European. Is this really Chanel offering an olive branch? This media manipulation is purely to benefit Chanel. They are creating an impression of glamour in a country where the inhabitants struggle financially. In fact, just one piece from Chanel’s new collection costs over half the annual salary of most Cuba’s inhabitants, and isn’t even stocked in Cuba.  Seems more like a mockery than a mending of relations.

Chanel focused on creating an ambient experience for its wealthy customers. What Chanel and the media haven’t done is embrace wider demographics: where’s the appeal of a completely private A-list event in a country that’s always been hard to access?

This is just one example of how marketing influences the way we perceive things around us, even going as far as changing our opinions on particular cultures.
So, maybe next time you read articles such as these, you’ll spend a little more time thinking about what the message really is, not what publications and brands want you to think it is.



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