More than just a tradition, setting out on a journey for the Cruise collection is a highly anticipated rendezvous. It’s the guarantee of a change of scenery, of beaches, of beauty and discovering a place, an era, an art de vie.
When Gabrielle Chanel presented a small collection at the end of Fall 1919, intended for holiday resorts and Biarritz in particular, did she have any idea she was initiating a brand-new fashion movement? Did she know she was bringing forth the first ever Cruise Collection? American Vogue sensed the thrill, revealing in its November edition that year, that the couturier’s designs, although « do not differ particularly from those which she exhibited last year », they formed a collection that « differs entirely from anything else shown in Paris at the same time. » Lighter, imperatively more comfortable, these unlined designs in jersey and these sweaters were ideal for yachting, spa towns, seaside resorts, and sun-drenched destinations like the Riviera and Venice with its Lido beaches. Six years earlier, in Deauville, she had launched outfits inspired by sailor suits, that she revisited in woollen jersey, then in silk jersey. They were as soft as they were fluid, practical to wear daily without ever loosing that established CHANEL allure. From sailor to cruise ship, there was but one step.
Chanel pushed ever further the cursor of this small line judiciously wedged between two seasons. Responding to her own needs, she added suits and evening dresses for holidays and luxury cruise ships, then very fashionable for a life «of destinations», one that pierced the cold months of a Parisian winter with rays of sunshine. An originality revealed by Harper’s Bazaar in December 1933 in an article about «Cruise clothes», and then again by L’Officiel de la Mode in December 1936, delighted to discover «a very complete mid-season collection» and that perfectly illustrated the unique concept of Gabrielle Chanel’s fashion. To never be like anyone else, to swim against the current, to make her own desires and lifestyle her principal source of inspiration, this was what guided Mademoiselle Chanel in her creativity. A sea lover, she sailed at length on the yachts belonging to the Duke of Westminster, the Flying Cloud and the Cutty Sark. It was while docking in Monte-Carlo on the Flying Cloud, that she discovered the village of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin and fell for the charm of a domain which from 1929 would be home to her property La Pausa. It was on this same boat that she met architect Robert Streitz, to whom she entrusted all the work on her Provençal residence.
Irreverent with her tomboy style, Gabrielle Chanel was occasionally seen on the deck of these boats heckling with Bendor, as the Duke of Westminster was nicknamed, sporting Bermuda shorts or wide-cut men’s trousers and a gilet that we today would call oversized. She was often seen basking in the sun, eyes shaded by her famous sunglasses. This woman who revelled in her freedom more than anything, felt what women would soon be dreaming of : a fashion for now and for the future, visionary in every detail. Gabrielle Chanel’s talent didn’t need to prove itself anymore.
And neither does Karl Lagerfeld’s. At a time when fashion had almost turned its back on the so-called cruise collections, the designer spun the ship’s wheel the other direction. As soon as he arrived at the helm in 1983, he breathed new life into this hyphen between two seasons and it has continued to grow, becoming one of the most important moments in the year. Is it just about slipping a few swimsuits and light dresses in-between two suits? Absolutely not! Responding to the needs of those who seek sunshine in the winter was not enough: Karl Lagerfeld thus transformed Cruisewear into a line that anticipates the warmer days to come, a completely renewed wardrobe, never stuck to the previous one or the one to come. A collection in its own right, with its own story, its own identity, its own inspiration, quick to nourish desire and to brighten the gaze. A collection that embodies travelling in all its forms, real or imaginary, temporal or historic, and that he wanted to land all over the world, like a magnificent postcard: New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Venice, Saint-Tropez, the Cap d’Antibes, Singapore, Seoul, Cuba and even Versailles in the XVIII century and Paris, metamorphosed into the epicentre of Ancient Greece. To dream, to let the imagination float away on a reinvented tweed, a diaphanous lace, a colorama imbued with sunshine, sublimate women in a little black dress… Isn’t that ultimately what fashion is all about? Is it not for this reason, among others, that CHANEL, is like no other and will always be CHANEL? It’s almost anchors away, so we wish you a bon voyage and a beautiful Cruise.