Chanel Cruise 2018-19. Replica ship in Grand Palais is striking backdrop for catwalk show that reflects bold new confidence of French fashion. Docking a 148-meter-long ship with on-board piano bar, swimming pool and a passenger list of Hollywood stars in the center of Paris is a bold statement of ambition, luxury and elegance. It is indicative of Karl Lagerfeld’s world view that the setting for his latest Chanel catwalk show was, in fact, plan B.
“We wanted to set sail, to take you on an actual cruise,” shrugged Bruno Pavlovsky, Chanel’s president of fashion, before the show on Thursday night. “We worked on a plan for two years, but to find the perfect boat proved impossible.”
The replica boat, named “La Pausa” after Chanel’s villa in the Cote d’Azur, took a month to install inside the Grand Palais, detailed down to the sound of creaking ropes, and was the backdrop for clothes that revived the Chanel of a Breton stripe-wearing Coco on holiday. Cream ribbed sweaters had anchor-stamped gold buttons and wide white trousers were worn with deck-friendly flat shoes. “I like the idea of boats, of ocean liners during the interwar period and the rest, but in real life, I like houses on solid ground with my stuff all around me. I get claustrophobic [on boats] because you feel like you’re cut off from the world,” said Karl Lagerfeld.
Evening dresses were bugle beaded, while the house tweed suit turned up with a skater-shaped skirt and cropped jacket. City black was swapped for sea blues and candy stripes. The mood was Coco at Deauville, with a dash of Duran Duran’s Rio. After a show featuring 80 outfits, all 900 guests were invited onto the upper and observation decks for champagne, Negroni cocktails, seafood and truffle chips.
The French venue and mood – previous Chanel cruise collection shows have taken place in Dubai and Havana – reflected a new closeness between the French fashion industry and government. Emmanuel Macron’s drive to promote Paris as an international capital of savoir-faire and dynamic business recently saw French designers honored at a gala dinner at the Élysée Palace.
“She didn’t liberate women’s bodies — that was [Paul] Poiret,” Lagerfeld said. “But it chimes with her era, so she’s still the standard-bearer for that.” Karl Lagerfeld revived the dormant cruise concept when he took over the brand in 1983, and recently added two other collections — Coco Neige and Coco Beach — to cater to demand for season-specific clothes.
Coco Chanel pioneered cruise as a fashion concept. Collections go on sale in November, originally aimed at affluent women packing for a Caribbean winter cruise who did not wish to be seen again in dresses they had worn that summer but could find nothing appropriate in stores full of winter clothes. Wearable rather than trend-driven, colorful and upbeat, designed with comfort and flexibility in mind, cruise has outgrown its ocean-liner origins to find a modern market among women looking for wearable but Instagram-friendly pieces for the festive party season. “Of the eight collections in a year, in terms of sales, cruise will be at number one or two,” said Pavlovsky.
Responding to criticism that its megasets are wasteful, Chanel plans to get maximum use out of the La Pausa during its short existence. The collection will be displayed inside the vessel over the next three days for clients, staff and students to peruse.