Chanel unveils its Balade en Méditerranée cruise collection online

Canadian Vogue

Chanel staged its latest cruise collection – though without really voyaging anywhere – with an online video shot in a Paris studio made to look like Capri and presented on social media Monday at noon time in Paris.

Entitled "Balade en Méditerranée" or "A Trip around the Mediterranean', this 2020/21 Cruise collection presented lots of classic-with-a-twist Chanel looks, albeit with the more youthful and romantic slant favored by creative director Virginie Viard. The collection marked the first by a major fashion house presented on the web ever since Europe went into lockdown in March due to coronavirus.

The seven-minute video, shot by Julien Pujol, features four models – Camille Hurel, Karly Loyce, Cris Herrmann and Mica Argañaraz – captured virtually in a Paris studio at ease on the Mediterranean coast, strolling on a luxury hotel terrace or marching on a rocky shore; the volcanic island’s cliffs, the Bay of Naples and the Emperor Tiberius's ancient villa seen in the distant background.

“Initially I had Capri in mind, where the show was supposed to take place, but didn’t happen in the end because of lockdown,” says Virginie Viard, “So we had to adapt: not only did we decide to use fabrics that we already had, but the collection, more generally, evolved towards a trip around the Mediterranean... The islands, the scent of the eucalyptus, the pink shades of the bougainvillea.”

Pre-show, a look-book series of photos shot by Karim Sadli featuring Argentinian model Argañaraz and French-born Hurel set the scene. Watermelon pink tweed boucle suits worn with bolero jackets worn over snazzy sequined bras; bold, windowpane, check flared pants with matching tank tops; bubblegum pink cardigans worn with hot-pants. All capturing the “free, laid-back allure inspired by the legendary actresses of the 1960s” holidaying on the Italian and the French Riviera.

For cocktail hour: salmon pink leather pantsuits with double-breasted jackets or layered or wraparound bougainvillea dresses in fine transparent lamé. As for evening, semi-sheer, black chiffon batwing dresses, again over-sequined tops; see-through coatdresses paired with black bras.
Each of the gals accessorized with snazzy quilted bags in everything from denim to raffia; charming new mini micro matelassé purses, pearl earrings with double CC clasps and chain belts finished with crystals – as seen on multiple, tanned, flat-as-a-pancake model tummies.

“A wardrobe that can be carried in a little suitcase on wheels, a shopper and an embroidered handbag,” added Viard about this multipurpose selection of easily transformable looks.

The actual video also included Brazilian-born Herrmann and Martinique-born black model Karly Loyce, the latter having sported her signature corn-row hairstyle. However, the video contained no references to the pandemic nor to the worldwide protests that have erupted since the death of George Floyd since policemen knelt on him for over eight minutes in Minneapolis.

The video ends with the tagline: "available in boutiques from November 2020". Meaning Chanel’s strategy remains light years away from See Now Buy Now, as the house maintains its cadence of six collections a year: two couture; two ready-to-wear; the Métiers d’Art show and, of course, cruise.

The show had originally been scheduled for May 7 on the magical Mediterranean island. Like other major houses – Christian Dior, Gucci, Giorgio Armani, Prada and Max Mara – Chanel called off its cruise show due to the pandemic. It also would have marked the debut show outside of France by creative director Virginie Viard, who succeeded Karl Lagerfeld after his death of February 2019.

The overall effect was a highly competent display of refined vacation fashion, backed up by soundtrack that mixed Venezuelan DJ Arca and an old French favorite for Chanel, Sébastien Tellier. However, ultimately, while sleek and smooth, the video only served to remind professionals what a modest alternative video clips are compared to an actual, live fashion show. Especially one by Chanel, whose massive spectacles inside the Grand Palais in Paris or historic events on islands in Dubai, Havana’s main avenue or in Remote Scottish castles, wrote the annals of recent fashion history.

Over the weekend, Chanel released a video teaser of the collection: an 18-second film which referenced a five-day voyage in 1997 that Lagerfeld made to the island, when he photographed Casa Malaparte. Shot by Massimiliano Bomba, the short includes rocky beaches, crashing waves, seagulls and Capri’s wild, untamed Western coast – as well as the iconic villa. Famed for its reverse pyramidical stairway, the Casa Malaparte was the setting for Jean-Luc Godard’s classic 1963 film Le Mépris, a fashion favorite that starred Brigitte Bardot and the recently-deceased Michel Piccoli, about a beautiful woman’s growing contempt for her weak-willed husband’s lack of strength.

In a clever visual sleight of hand, Viard riffs on the movie’s racy poster, where Bardot lies on the roof of the villa in a pink bikini, igniting a furious scene of jealousy from her husband Piccoli. But where beauty proves fatal in Godard’s film about remaking the Odyssey for a vulgar American producer, it becomes insouciant and mysterious in Viard's hands.

This spring, all of Europe’s major fashion capitals – Florence, London, Milan and Paris – called off their scheduled runway seasons. Since then, they have all rejigged their various fashion weeks and now plan digital fashion weeks over the next six weeks. The next digital stop will be this coming weekend, when the debut London Fashion Week Digital stages its three-day online season, starting Saturday, June 13.