The Cuban Arte y Moda project seeks to establish a dialogue between the different manifestations of art and design through experimentation and creating clothes using handcrafts and traditional or contemporary techniques.
Spring at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. has been an opportunity to celebrate Cuba’s art and style through an extraordinary fashion show. Under the dancing lights of the Millennium Stage, Arte y Moda, or Art and Fashion, combined imagination, fine art, and costumes created by Cuban designers Sandra Huelbes, Celia Ledón and Ignacio Carmona, who take their inspiration from paintings and sculptures by Cuban visual arts masters.
The materials used in their designs ranged from textiles to products from the recycled industry to natural resources, all offering a spectacle of light, color and rhythm that identifies with the Cuban national spirit.
It is no secret that the history of clothing is part of the history of Man and that it is closely linked to its social, economic, political and cultural environment. Its relationship with visual arts is easily verifiable in the oldest dressed human depictions. If we take a leap in history and go back to the first quarter of the twentieth century—a time of multiple and versatile exchanges—we see how visual arts and fashion design came together through constant loans and influences.
The Cuban Arte y Moda project seeks to establish a dialogue between the different manifestations of art and design through experimentation and creating clothes using handcrafts and traditional or contemporary techniques, including knitting, crocheting, embroidery, fretwork, inks, prints, fiber work and papier mache, to name a few, on textiles and materials like leather and metal. Arte y Moda is committed to combining artistically recreated fashion elements to portray an unreal universe in each piece. And this is why it is still around since 2003, when it was created as part of the collateral program of the 8th Havana Biennial
Cuba had already seen prior substantial experiences in the reconciliation between art and fashion design. Clearly, one of the most important ones was Telarte, a project that began in 1983 and lasted more than ten years, and which focused on involving painters, designers, photographers and craftsmen in the production of domestic textiles. Hoping to raise the aesthetic quality and beauty of cotton fabrics that people would use in their daily lives, Telarte engaged over fifty renowned artists the likes of René Portocarrero, Mariano Rodríguez, Fayad Jamís, Leandro Soto, Sandra Ceballos, Argentinian Julio Le Parc, Flora Fong, Nelson Domínguez, Tomás Sánchez and Manuel Mendive.
These days, music, dance, theater and visual arts play a transcendental role among the manifestations that are intertwined in Arte y Moda. Performance art complements the concept of the costumes, which are integrated into the show with an artistic dimension that embellishes the project’s presentations at its regular venue, the Cuban Art Building of the National Museum of Fine Arts, under the spatial mystique instilled by the museum’s treasured collections. At 9 pm sharp—time when a cannon shot would announce the closing of the city walls back in colonial Cuba—the Museum’s central courtyard opens up to a fashion show under the light of the stars and lighting displays. The cool evenings of our tropical November become the scene of the most sought-after runway in the Caribbean thanks to this show filled with glamor and elegance, in which design reveals itself as a cultural experience.
The presentation of Arte y Moda along with performances by renowned dance and theater companies, such as the National Ballet of Cuba, Malpaso and Teatro El Público; the great Cuban diva Omara Portuondo; Cuba’s “musical train,” Los Van Van band; and exhibitions by visual arts masters Roberto Fabelo, Manuel Mendive, Rocío García and Roberto Diago at the Artes de Cuba: From the Island to the World Festival on the stages of the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. back in May contributed to reaffirm the validity of the idea. Arte y Moda has indeed consolidated itself as a spectacular provocation.