by Beth Hammarlund
Resort and cruise collections originated to cater to wealthy consumers who preferred to spend their post-holiday winters in the Caribbean. The fashions, usually more of a capsule collection, were geared toward warm weather. Designs were heavy on nautical references and breezy beachwear. In recent years, many designers and brands have started to view resort wear as obsolete, and have focused solely on their spring and fall lines. But Karl Lagerfeld uses his annual cruise collection to provide audiences with a thoughtful hybrid of high-low Chanel, and presents the collections in extravagant theatrical shows.
Last year’s presentation was held on the boardwalk in Saint Tropez, complete with supermodels entering the show on speedboats. The 2010 runway show was held in Venice (one of Coco Chanel’s favorite vacation spots) and featured dozens of cabanas and sun beds where guests could recline. It made being rich look super awesome.
Perhaps most famously, the brand’s 2008 presentation was held pool-side in Miami, complete with a performance by the United States Synchronized Swimming Team. The bathing beauties wore retro bathing caps, nose plugs and goggles (all Chanel, of course), as well as white one-pieces with black block lettering which spelled “Chanel” as they dove off the edge of the pool. This year’s show was no less dramatic, but closer to Lagerfeld’s home. Set in the gardens of Versailles, the backdrop alone was a breathtaking vision.
This year’s display featured plenty of familiar silhouettes. Classic cocktail dresses with with flared skirts were complimented by structured shoulders, and jackets recalled the classic Chanel suit. Gowns were adorned with floral appliqués that almost looked like frosting. But despite the drama, Lagerfeld brought plenty of cruise-appropriate styles into the mix, particularly capri pants and swimwear.
The 18th century-themed collection was rich with pastels, with glints of gold and silver. Models wore candy-colored Clara Bow bobs, and their eyes were streaked with hot pink shadow and finished with a tiny velvet Chanel logo, which was affixed high on the cheekbone. Cross-body bags were a major player in the collection, an appropriate reference to the more laid-back style that resort wear originally aspired to be.
The opulent collection was dripping with irony, particularly when Lagerfeld created strange and elegant shapes out of casual fabrics, such as denims and light chambrays. His version of Canadian tuxedos contrasted with elegant drop earrings and pearls. Gold brocades showed up on flared short shorts and bathing suits. Platform sneakers were crafted in bright gold and silver. The effect was Marie Antoinette meets Davey Crockett. Meets streetwear meets beachwear. This collection had a whole lot of “meeting.”
That’s not to say that Karl Lagerfeld didn’t bring in some unexplainable elements. One model in particular carried a quilted watering can with a golden spout. I’m not saying it wasn’t cool. I’m just saying that I totally don’t get it. If Karl were here, he’d probably say something like, “but that is the nature of beauty, n’est-ce pas?” Fair enough, Kaiser.
Though terms such as “resort” and “cruise” are outdated and inaccurate, it is a fantastic chance for designers to show collections in the off-season. The more theatricality, the better. And as Lagerfeld proved once again, Chanel reigns supreme.