Historically, Chanel has presented its Cruise collections in vacation hotspots like Cuba and Seoul— faraway beaches where its tweed-heavy resortwear could be worn by jetsetters in the foreseeable future. The destination runway this season was supposed to be no different: Back in September, the luxury label announced that Virginie Viard would show her second Cruise offering on the island of Capri in Italy. Fast forward to May — when the show was originally scheduled — and the Italian spectacle cannot go on, as most of the world is on lockdown from an ongoing health crisis.
Instead of calling quits on Cruise 2021, Chanel decided to push back the unveiling of the collection by a month and show it virtually on the label's digital platforms. The virtual event, titled "Balade en Méditerranée" (a trip around the Mediterranean), debuted Monday at noon in Paris with a seven-minute video by Julien Pujol.
With the desire to travel very much on our minds, the name of the collection is enticing — what most of us wouldn't give to be taking a leisurely stroll along the blue-green sea in Capri, stopping to admire the yellow-splashed lemon trees and the sunset. The reality, however, is that the world is in no state for glamorous vacations. Plus, a string of images shot on a pebbled beach in a Paris studio can't quite bring the fantasy like an actual catwalk in the sunny isle would.
"We had to adapt," says Viard of the holiday-focused collection, which is inspired by the glitterati who used to escape to the Italian and the French Riviera in the 1960s — think Jackie O wandering the island in ankle-skimming pants and huge sunglasses. Adapting meant losing any sort of space-bound Chanel rocket, as well as using fabrics the luxury label already had in stock. The brand is also recycling pieces from the Spring 2020 collection which has sat languishing in stores, according to Business of Fashion, to "re-energise" them to hit sales floors again come November.
The desired result, according to the collection notes released from the brand, was a wardrobe made up of a "few easy-to-wear, multipurpose items of clothing." Clothes that can easily transform — long skirts that can become strapless dress, ground-grazing jackets in black chiffon that can be worn over a triangle bikini by day or with an embroidered bandeau for night, sheer lamé dresses that can be paired with crêpe shorts or a casual blazer.
Like the presentation, the clothes are understated. Save for the in-your-face bougainvillea pink that covers bouclé skirt suits and jackets, sequin-encrusted swimwear and costume jewels, the line is relatively quiet. The silhouettes are liberating: Flared pants and handkerchief-hemmed skirts make several appearances, as does a high-slit maxi skirt. Denim is present in the form of wide-legged bottoms that feature panels of cotton fabric printed with a floral logo motif and as capri shorts styled with a silk scarf as a belt. Hot pants — those teeny tiny bottoms that Viard seems to love so much — crop up as companions to graphic T-shirts and bikini tops.
Models sport strappy, Greek-inspired flat sandals, double CC slides and leather peep-toe ballet flats. Tight chains accent bare midriffs and mini quilted bags acting as necklaces illuminate chests. A woven wicker beach basket purse is a highlight on the bag front, as some of the others are plucked from previous collections.
The message of escapism isn't fully lost on this collection, but whether someone can even wear these clothes to escape is yet to be determined.
See the complete Chanel Cruise 2021 collection in the gallery below: