The fact that Cuba’s profile has risen considerably, globally and within the microcosm of fashion — most recently a month ago for the Chanel cruise show — did not dissuade Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli from tapping into the island’s history and culture for their Valentino resort collection. “It’s really unbelievable, how it’s like time has stopped [there],” said Chiuri, who last visited Cuba a few years ago. “We are Italian, and when you arrive there, you feel like you’re remembering a place in Italy from when you were a kid.”
The ideas of nostalgia and time are unavoidable when working from a Cuban inspiration, and Chiuri and Piccioli infused the vast lineup — 80 looks displayed at Andy Warhol’s former Factory in New York — with a sense of the past in Fifties-inspired silhouettes, such as fuller skirts on their signature lace dresses and some elaborate jacquard dresses that suggested a fit-and-flare bombshell shape. But Chiuri said they didn’t want to treat Cuba as a “simple” place. So they drew on the grand scheme of its history — military, African, Spanish and American influences — to craft a rich and diverse lineup that reflected the intense workmanship of the Valentino ateliers in modern looks. There were many embroidered military jackets worn over floral skirts and dresses, and skirts done in incredible, lightweight wooden-bead embroidery. The Cuban spirit also moved Chiuri and Piccioli to wax nostalgic about their own house, with a series of red looks that nodded to Valentino Garavani’s deep history with the color.