It’s that time of year again when Chanel sandals and Prada shorts start making an appearance, with fashion blogs and magazines waxing lyrical about resort collections. Anyone interested in fashion will know that the most coveted summer shoe is the pool slide, and shorts of all different lengths and style feature heavily in the S/S 2014/15 shows. The Chanel cruise collection is sailing into Dubai as I type this, with KL gearing up for a mammoth show on a private island on Tuesday. I wanted to find out more about the origins of the resort collections and their evolution since they first debuted back in the 20s, when Madame Chanel first came up with the concept.
Originally intended for the wealthiest clientele of haute couture houses, resort or cruise fashion as it’s also known is now becoming more mainstream, with more and more of the major designers featuring it into their fall fashion shows. Resort fashion can be described as an inter-season line of RTW clothing in addition to the two bi annual collections (spring summer and autumn/winter).
Historically it’s an interesting area of fashion history and requires a lot of thinking ahead and consideration of location -the US jet set would buy resort pieces before setting off on cruises; the European elite would buy during the winter months – a welcome diversion to the notably cooler winter weather. Times have certainly changed and haute couture designers are now much more aware of designing for the masses – now collections are marketed all year round. The more affluent holiday destinations are now permanent residences for the rich and famous (think the Bahamas, Mustique and Palm Beach). The affordability of beautiful resort destinations has improved, with a broader customer base of clients holidaying in Dubai, South Africa and the Greek Islands. Now it’s not enough to be seen in the “in” holiday destination for that year, you’re also expected to look the part and strike a balance between relaxation and wealth that can be tricky for the less fashion conscious traveller.
What are the fashion rules for cruise collections (or collection croisieres in French)? Obviously, lightweight materials such as poplin, silk and cotton are favoured – they need to be easy to pack and breathable to hold up to the heat. Upkeep is another important consideration – they need to be easy to clean and need ideally to not require ironing (perfect for me, then). Typical pieces to be seen in collections include sandals, shorts and caftans, light dinner jackets and evening dresses suitable for a fabulous coastal restaurant.
Style wise, it’s easy to pigeon hole the key looks – the nautical theme never seems to go out of fashion, heavily influenced by boating and sailing wear of bygone eras – the classic breton stripe will always be around. You won’t be able to get rid of the classic Hawaiian shirt too easily either – exuberant prints and outlandish colours have been seen in the most recent catwalks. Typical medditerean block colours such as whites, yellows and blues will also last many seasons. And there’s nothing more fabulous than a woman in monochrome with a massive floppy beach hat, oversized Audrey sunglasses and a belted waist.
Never one to miss an opportunity for decadence, Karl Lagerfeld is perhaps one of the best known designers to make a real effort over his cruise collections, with Chanel Cruise being the most coveted collection of the year. Dior, Gucci, Ralph Lauren and Marc Jacobs have all followed suit and regularly do cruise collections. Womens resort wear was generally more favoured than menswear, but the tide is turning in that D & G, YSL, Armani , Prada, Gucci and Burberry either produce entire collections or surreptitiously include a handful of looks in their fall shows.
Interestingly, Chanel Cruise is the most affordable of the six collections produced by the label each year, and recent figures show that it’s actually the largest collection of the year. Capitalising on the gap between the winter and spring collections, Cruise hits stores in November of each year (the collection was relaunched in 2001) and earns massive revenues for the major labels. Chanel holds it’s Cruise show each May in a different suitably decadent city, last year we saw cricket inspired outfits in Singapore, with 2012 showcasing French history with a Marie Antoinette theme. Past venues have included Venice and St Tropez. Hitting UAE emirate Dubai tomorrow for the first time with a collection price tag of $2.5 million, we can expect decadence with an islamic twist. One thousand international guests will attend the sunset fashion show and cocktail party at the stunning The Island resort. [One can dream].
Major fashion houses have cottoned on to the benefits of holding shows outside of the major fashion capitals, attracting the attention of well-off clients who don’t happen to live in the big four fashion capitals. Louis Vuitton debuts its collection next week in Monte Carlo and Dior showed in the current in place to be in NYC – Brooklyn. The cruise effect has filtered down to the high street, where designer cruise collaborations are becoming more and more popular.
Get your cocktails and pool slides ready to watch the show from 6pm on Tuesday 13th May.
Past Chanel Cruise looks
2014 – Singapore
2013 – Versailles
Cruise 2012 – Antibes