Aries x Havana Club Shines a Spotlight on Cuba's Trans Community

by Ella Kent on 11 November 2019

Aries collaborates with Havana Club and photographer Joshua Gordon in new cultural project.

Aries collaborates with Havana Club and photographer Joshua Gordon in new cultural project.

Aries has teamed up with rum brand Havana Club to release a capsule collection to coincide with Joshua Gordon’s new multimedia project Butterfly. Set in Cuba, Aries x Havana Club supported Gordon in his creation of a multimedia project depicting the Caribbean island's drag and trans communities. The project includes an exhibition, 22-minute-long film, book and capsule collection of merchandise.

Photographs of the women taken on location in Havana over a month reflect Gordon's raw and often confrontational photographic style in a range of film media including polaroid, Super-8 and 35mm. Subjects are shown on the street, getting ready to go out with friends, lounging on beds naked, and with family members.

Image from Butterfly, photographed by Joshua Gordon

Speaking on how the collaboration came to be, Gordon explains 'I have always found trans women fascinating, powerful and beautiful. I suppose it came from watching movies like Paris is Burning, films by Pedro Almodóvar and characters like Venus Xtravaganza. I always wanted to work on a project about their identity and transition and this was a perfect vehicle.'

People from LGBTQ+ groups in Cuba still face difficulties in being accepted in the wider community, and whilst it has much improved since the nineties, the lack of access to hormones and gender reassignment surgery is a widespread issue for many members of the trans community. Reflecting on the difficulties of photographing a marginalised group without taking advantage of the situation Gordon acknowledges that 'the relationship between fashion and art is tough because it can come off exploitative,' but for him, it's about, 'being honest and trying to represent the subjects truthfully. That’s how you can bridge the two in a genuine way.’

Set alongside the Cuba images are a series of portraits shot in London by Gordon in collaboration with Aries creative director Sofia Prantera and stylist Jane How. Featuring model Kasper Kapica and Gordon’s girlfriend and muse Jess Maybury, the vintage Playboy-inspired photographs display a light-hearted contrast to the on-location photographs.

Image from Butterfly, photographed by Joshua Gordon

Coinciding with the launch of Butterfly, Aries is set to release a capsule collection of Havana Club merchandise including tees, socks and shirts. The unisex drop will feature Gordon’s Cuba photography and hand-drawn illustrations reworked with the Havana Club logo across the items.

Speaking on the collaboration and Aries' participation in Gordon's project, Sofia Prantera said: 'It was an opportunity for me to do something outside fashion and to focus on gender identity which is a theme that has informed my work from the start. I see the Aries brand as a champion of outsider perspectives and art, as a vehicle for collaborating with artists who explore those themes for their own intrinsic interest, unfettered by commercial restraints, often using a commercial angle as a way to promote an alternative vision.'

Image from Butterfly, photographed by Joshua Gordon
Image from Butterfly, photographed by Joshua Gordon

Aries x Havana Club are hosting events in Milan, London, Berlin and Tokyo throughout November to showcase the Butterfly show and installation. The Butterfly show and installation will be open to public viewing at Artifact in Milan (5 - 12 November 2019) and Komiyama Bookstore in Tokyo (28 November - 5 December 2019).

All merchandise and books will be available to purchase at www.ariesarise.com from November 5th as well as select global stores.

Image from Butterfly, photographed by Joshua Gordon