The Chanel Cruise Collection 2021, titled ‘Balade en Méditerranée’ - A Mediterranean Jaunt - is the second resort line designed by Karl Lagerfeld’s successor Virginie Viard. The collection is inspired by French New Wave cinema, specifically the works of Jean-Luc Godard; glimpses can be seen of Brigitte Bardot in the polished styles of neat jackets and high-waisted shorts. As Viard said, “the references are always the same: holidays, actresses.” Bougainvillaea pink is a highlight of the collection, in leather suits and unlined tweed, as well as sequinned bikinis and the Chanel interlocking ‘C’ amongst delicate body jewellery. Classic has always been the style motto of Chanel and this collection is no exception, it’s a sophisticated wardrobe that consists of what Viard calls “easy clothes”.
For the first time ever Chanel unveiled this collection virtually, without a runway show. Even the campaign itself is virtual with Capri, Italy, reimagined in the Chanel studio by photographer Karim Sadli, featuring model Mica Argañaraz against a digital recreation of a Caprese sunset.
However, with the inspiring digital capabilities of today, some people were disappointed with Chanel’s debut into the digital era. Whilst Chanel’s campaign involved a short presentation film, lookbook and a playlist, The New York Times wrote that “the video and pictures could not come close to the experience that even a livestream of a show in a specific geographic location conveys; on their own, they felt like an old fragrance commercial.”
There had been a Cruise Show scheduled for May in Capri to launch this collection on the runway but the recent pandemic meant it could not take place. Although some might question its quality, this is the first digital fashion launch by a luxury brand during or, because of, the pandemic and this has changed the landscape of fashion, even just for a season. This digital launch takes the fashion industry away from the previous extravagance, runways have always been invitation-only events which consist of industry elites and celebrities, however, with a digital launch the experience was available to anyone. Digitisation is more important than ever in these times, with store closures and travel restrictions during the pandemic PHYS magazine wrote that “luxury groups will have to attract many more customers (at least temporarily) to their digital platforms and create a new customer journey…they will also have to roll out their own online sales channels to fully control the customer experience and preserve their brand image.” The digital features of luxury brands might be the best way for them to survive.
Covid-19 has forced brands to confront the challenge of digitisation and assess how they can connect with consumers away from the glitz and spectacle of Fashion Weeks and runway
The Chanel Cruise Collection 2021 is made entirely from existing stock - Viard explained to Vogue, just before the collection launched, that Covid-19 compromised their supply chains so they had to use “all the fabrics we had in stock—all the buttons, all the galons [braids]—we had a shop in the studio, it was so cute!” Viard continued in WWD magazine “we reused everything we had: all the leftover buttons and thread. We made the knits with yarns we had in stock.” Within the global pandemic many brands might be re-thinking their supply chains, with this collection being compromised we’re seeing how delocalised the luxury market is.
Garments from previous collections were also repurposed such as, shirts being re-dyed pink and flared jeans were customised with a cotton panelling. Holiday suitcases are a chance to mix your wardrobe favourites with new pieces, as a holiday-themed collection, that was exactly the approach. Existing pieces already in store were specially selected to feature in this collection such as the woven wicker beach basket purse. Viard explains, “if you have something you like from Chanel, it always works. You don’t need to always buy something new.”
That sentiment shows the transformation taking place at Chanel; it is not a brand moving strictly forward, but rather in a circular motion - it is becoming more season-less, more fluid. Not to say that there won’t be new collections, but rather, it doesn’t matter when something was made, if it’s Chanel - it’s Chanel! The brand is focusing on creating fashion that lasts a lifetime, rather than persuading people to keep up with the ‘trends’. As Viard told Vogue, in regards to reusing the woven wicker beach basket purse “I love it… Why would we do another one?”
As a styling feature, many outfits in the collection are interchangeable, seen in the chiffon jackets to wear at the beach over a swimsuit that can also be worn as a bandeau top for the evening. As well as, skirts that are also designed to be strapless dresses. This is part of the “easy clothes” vision Viard set out for this collection with the idea of ‘packing light’ for holiday. However, within sustainability it allows less clothing with just as much functionality, to see a luxury brand not intent on excess is refreshing. Whilst, 14 of the 51 looks were made with sustainable silk and cotton that have won the GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certification.
The Chanel Mission 1.5 already shows the brand’s commitment to sustainability, however, this pandemic is causing many brands to be more economical, which can introduce them to the benefits of sustainability.
Through this new collection, we have seen Covid-19 already affecting the fashion industry; from restricting supply chains, localising manufacturing and digitalising campaigns. Chanel could have easily postponed the Cruise Collection 2021 and waited for a time when it could be launched as a runway show, or when they could use new materials. But, Chanel decided to adapt and the adaptability in the launch and the collection itself shows that luxury fashion cannot stay in its comfort zone. We assumed big brands would be safe however, it seems, Covid-19 is forcing all brands to adapt if they want to bring out collections this year.
The Chanel Cruise Collection 2021 is a stunning glimpse of Viard’s artistic direction for the brand. Bruno Pavlovsky - Chanel President of Fashion - stated: “within two or three years, I hope we will be able to offer to our customers complete collections that reflect all our commitments.” This Cruise Collection is certainly a step in the right direction and gives customers hope, and excitement, for what this luxury brand has in store for the future.
All images © Chanel Cruise Collection 2021