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Why Chanel’s cruise collections are the last word in resort-wear

The history of resort chic has always been associated with Chanel's annual cruise collection. With the Cruise 22-23 collection unveiled in Monaco recently, the luxury brand upped the game again 

The finale of the Chanel Cruise 22-23 show 
The finale of the Chanel Cruise 22-23 show  (Chanel )

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Coco Chanel was one of the first design mavens to craft holiday wear for her High Net-Worth Individual (HNI) loyalists. The visionary designer held her first cruise showcase in the resort of Deauville in 1919, and thrilled by the success, she unveiled her first cruise outing at her house in the Rue Cambon in Paris in the late 1920s. She had the pulse of the jet set, who wanted pieces for beach holidays and for sailing in the Mediterranean. Experimenting with resort-focused beach dresses, sailor pants and riviera prints, the designer documented a lexicon of cruise chic thus ushering a new century of resort wear. Laidback glamour, louche and luxe.

Hence it wasn't surprising to see the late Karl Lagerfeld create a sprawling ship named La Pausa, named after Chanel’s summer house in the South of France, for the hallowed French luxury house's Resort 2019 outing. Nautical stripes, berets, reflector sunnies and bags with 'La Pausa' printed on them evoked that inimitable luxe Côte d’Azur spirit and holiday mood synonymous with the sun, sand and sea.

The Chanel Cruise 2019 show 
The Chanel Cruise 2019 show  (Chanel)

The post-Lagerfeld era of the house too has seen the cruise legacy being taken forward with a profound respect for the brand's heritage and infused with modern updates. The brand's creative director Virginie Viard has time and again flown the No 5 devotees to exotic locales like Greece and Provence, which are not just steeped in symbolism but with direct and deeper links with the history of the house of Chanel.

For instance, for Resort 22, Virginie Viard had Jean Cocteau's film, The Testament of Orpheus on her moodboard, which was shot in Provence (the Carrières de Lumières or ‘Quarries of Light’) and featured icons like Pablo Picasso and Brigitte Bardot. Again the choice of the locale and Cocteau's epochal film had deep connection with the house founder - Coco. Cocteau and Chanel were lifelong friends. In fact, the designer created costumes for an array of Cocteau’s plays, and they'd share their creative canvas at her apartment in Paris.

From the Chanel Cruise 2021-22 collection 
From the Chanel Cruise 2021-22 collection 

Over the years, every cruise show has had a vibrant and layered connection to Coco's past. Cut to the Chanel Cruise 22-23 showcased on the beach of the Monte-Carlo Beach hotel this week, and one could draw the parallels so easily. Looking at the blue Mediterranean waters – the backdrop of the show – one could easily picture Coco Chanel's one-piece swimsuit, which she refashioned from a boucle fabric, thus bringing swimwear into mainstream fashion at the turn of the 19th century.

Viard, however, had a more of-the-moment, easy breezy approach to clothing and styling for her Monaco showcase. She reconciled Formula One sass with Chanel chicness, Grimaldi glam with motor sport bravado. Be it driver's jumpsuits in printed tweed or silk, on the racing circuit or the T-shirts embroidered with patches and flowers, a draped bustier and long skirt made of ivory lace. However the highpoint was definitely the bouquets of handcrafted silk blooms by the maison atelier.

From the Cruise 22-23 collection
From the Cruise 22-23 collection

The show was also a subtle homage to the late Karl Lagrefeld as the campaign was shot on the balcony of Karl's villa, La Vigie. Models sported jewellery realised in Baroque dolphins and sea shells, racing overalls realised in trompe-l'œil sequins, motocross jackets, cricket knits, and tennis rackets if you are so inclined – each insignia bringing to mind country club cool befitting the Monaco royalty. Think Princess Charlotte Casiraghi on a holiday.

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