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Chanel Built an Ancient Grecian Temple for Its Very Literal Cruise 2018 Collection

Karl Lagerfeld brought the Greek countryside to Paris's Grand Palais for a runway show complete with Hellenistic ruins, Mediterranean flora and plenty of gladiator sandals.
Photo: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Photo: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Karl Lagerfeld hasn't yet met a far-flung locale from which he can't draw inspiration — especially in regards to Chanel's cruise collections, most recently set in Havana, Seoul, Dubai, Singapore and the French Riviera. Last May's Caribbean-infused extravaganza in Cuba spared no detail; Chanel flew in 700 people for an event that was more street party (at the historic Paseo del Prado, no less) than runway show, with a collection that matched its zest. How could the French design house one-up itself — again — this year?

Well, it wouldn't, at least in terms of location. Chanel's Cruise 2018 show, held on Tuesday at Paris's Grand Palais, was its first cruise presentation held locally in a number of years. But what the show lacked in destination, it certainly made up for in its theme — ancient Greece — which, per Lagerfeld tradition, was exhibited in every facet with striking accuracy.

Surely one of the elements Lagerfeld most enjoys about the Grand Palais is its transformative nature, fully serving as a blank canvas upon which he can thrust brasseries and grocery stores and a functioning spacecraft. This time, Chanel brought the ancient Greek countryside to Paris, erecting the ruins of a full-scale Hellenistic temple, complete with period-appropriate Doric columns and Mediterranean flora that included olive trees. Even the painted backdrop, which used perspective to position the "temple" above a body of water, was done with painstaking detail; such sacred structures were often built on top of hills, so somebody at Chanel did their research.

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Just as Chanel's Cruise 2017 collection evoked (at times cheesy) Cuban silhouettes and motifs, this range was even more literal. Floor-length Grecian-style gowns came in laurel wreath-printed silks and toga-style linens, while house tweeds were made more Hellenistic with bright baubles and beading. The accessories did more to further the theme than anything else: Jewelry was worn in excess, with gilded headbands, butterfly hair clips, arm bands, bracelets, waist belts and layers upon layers of authentic necklaces; some models carried circular handbags adorned with similarly gilded motifs, like owls and olive leafs; and, of course, every model wore a variation of knee-high platform gladiator sandals in a rainbow of colors.

But will this collection, when detached from its exaggerated styling, sell? It's a question you have to ask for anything this hyper-literal. But if Chanel has mastered one thing, it's the art of aspiration: If you can't land yourself a plane ticket to Athens or Delphi, wearing the right clothes are the next best thing.

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