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The Story of Chanel’s Cruise Collections

There ain't no cruise show like a Chanel cruise show. We track the evolution of the once-a-year affair from Gabrielle Chanel's time to what it is today. In collaboration with Chanel.

It’s no secret that Gabrielle Chanel was before her time. She freed the torsos of women by ditching the corset. She championed the concept of costume jewellery, because there’s no shame in mixing faux pearls with real ones. She placed black in the front and centre of her collections even though it was taboo at her time. She was deeply inspired by menswear, an idea virtually untouched in couture or ready-to-wear until she came along.

Gabrielle Chanel also loved to sail, which would eventually lead to the inception of cruise collections at Chanel from the 1920s. Chanel with her wavy, dark tresses, sporting a jersey sweater, loose trousers and two-tone pumps while laughing on a yacht – it’s a look that is so wildly relevant today as it was then. While not the first, Gabrielle Chanel’s cruise collections were among the few that were “complete” – where she dressed the vacationer from lazy afternoons on the boat to tete-a-tetes over dinner.

The popularity of cruise collections, by now defined as the in-between collection shown in the spring and ready for the traveller by November’s holiday season, began to wane over the subsequent decades. It was not until Karl Lagerfeld’s arrival at Chanel in 1983 that the cruise collection saw its triumphant return in the industry. Today, cruise collections – or, at least the idea of an in-between collection – is the norm.

Still, Chanel was the first to stage a fully-fledged show for its cruise collections and remains among the very few fashion houses that do so. And, as if it hasn’t been established already, there ain’t no cruise show like a Chanel cruise show. (Actually, there ain’t no show like a Chanel show, period.)

It’s not just the idea of travel that inspires the cruise collections, but the destination as well. It is as they say – location, location, location. Since the 2000s, Chanel under Karl Lagerfled has shown cruise collections at the Santa Monica Airport in Los Angeles, Grand Central Station in New York, Café Marly in Paris, Dongdaemun Design Plaza in Seoul, Dempsey Hill in Singapore (REPRESENT), the gardens of Chateau de Versailles and last year’s Paseo del Prado in Havana, just off the top of our heads. This list excludes everywhere else Chanel has been to for the other collections. We would have lost you by the time we’re finished.

Of course, this is Chanel. The same Chanel that set up a rocket and the Eiffel Tower in the middle of the Grand Palais, so even destinations that don’t exist anymore are possible, even for just 20 minutes. For the most recent cruise collection, Chanel transported all present at the Galerie Courbe in Paris to Ancient Greece, a time of heroes, gods and goddesses.

Titled “The Modernity of Antiquity” (or “La Modernite de l’Antiquite” for our Francophile friends), the collection ran the gamut from embroidered corsets over pleated skirts and lace-up sandals – Chanel’s very own gladiator – drape dresses of crepe and gold, cinched at the waist with intricate belts and ropes. For the traveller, Chanel gave a plethora of options, whether you’re jaunting on sandy beaches or deserts, strolling down ancient streets or even if you’re just wandering about on home turf.

Where will Chanel take us to next? The very question that hangs on everyone’s lips, season after season, year after year. There’s truly something to be said about how Chanel continues to preserve that wonder, excitement and mystery around its cruise collections so many decades on. In an age of increasing chaos, that fantasy seems more relevant than ever. Take the lead Chanel – our passports, whether we need them at all, are ready.

What To Read Next: 15 Things You May Have Missed From Chanel’s “The Modernity In Antiquity”, What We’re Adding To Cart From Chanel’s Cruise 2018 and Room Diaries: Gabrielle Chanel’s Apartment Is Legitimate Goals | Cover Image: Getty, Story Images: Courtesy of Chanel

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