On the sands of Miami Beach, Chanel built a cabana-lined, boardwalk-style runway — complete with a beach club — to stage a fashion show in early November. Except, there was technically no new collection. Instead, the French house was showcasing its most recent Cruise line, which was presented in Monte Carlo in May and is set to hit stores in the few weeks. Same looks, and even some of the same Chanel regulars sitting in the beach chairs that served as a "front row") that the house had already released.
It's an example of a growing trend among luxury brands, where they'll essentially re-do a runway closer to when the collection arrives in retail. It's not quite see-now-buy-now, but it's close. On Nov. 4, Chanel actually did two shows back-to-back: one in the afternoon exclusively for clients, and one in the early evening for a mix of clients, press and VIPs.
"This was a good time to come back to Florida — last time was 2008, so quite a long time," Bruno Pavlovsky, Chanel's president of fashion, told the audience gathered for a "master class" session the day after the show, right across the street from where the runway took place. "This collection was perfect for Miami," he added, noting the parallels that can be drawn between the city and Monte Carlo.
Chanel dubs these shows "Replicas," and it's not the only brand investing in them: Louis Vuitton is hosting its own riff on the concept for its Cruise 2023 line — which walked in San Diego in May — in Dallas before the end of the year. They've been A Thing for a few years now, particularly for Chanel, which did one over the summer in Florence for Métiers d'art 2022 (originally shown at its 19M atelier in Paris in December), last year in Dubai for Cruise 2021 (originally shown in Provence) and in Bangkok for Cruise 2018 (originally shown in Paris). And they're becoming an increasingly big part of the fashion cycle.
The crowd gathered in Miami gives away a bit of the strategy behind these shows, which is that they're mainly a play to court and engage a brand's most loyal customers, right as new product is about to be available for purchase. (There were both locals and clients from out of town at the Chanel show in Miami.)
From a marketing POV, these re-stagings also create a new opportunity to talk about a collection months after it made its first impression, with new interest points and a new context that demonstrates the versatility of the product, or at least all the different ways it can exist in their wardrobes. It can be less about the clothes themselves (though they remain at the core of the whole experience), and more about their surroundings: For people coming from out of town, Chanel organized tours at the Rubell Museum; there was an after party immediately following the runway at a tent sent up a few feet away, right on the beach; the morning after, there was the aforementioned master class, featuring Pavlovsky, Caroline de Maigret and Pharrell, which was open to guests and students at local universities.
Maigret was at both the "original" Cruise 2023 show in Monte Carlo and in Miami for Replica. She argues that one of the biggest benefits of having another go at the collection lets people see the same clothes on different models.
"What I love about Replicas is that it's not the same casting," she says. "It's really fun to see the same garments being worn by new personalities. You see other things and it gives you different emotions. I find it lovely."
But back to the clothes: Cruise 2023 was inspired by Formula 1, as well as the coastal lifestyle in Monaco. Those themes worked well in Miami, especially with the clothes being displayed beside the ocean, with wind blowing up skirts and trains.
Staging the original runway in Monaco tied it back to Gabrielle Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld, as both designers often vacationed there. (Lagerfeld showed his 2006 Métiers d'art collection at the Monte-Carlo Opera House.) The Replica in Miami deepens the brand's investment in the city; last year, Chanel opened a new Peter Marino-designed store in the Design District, and commissioned Es Devlin to create an installation during the most recent Art Basel for the 100th anniversary of the No. 5 perfume.
Virginie Viard wasn't in Miami for Cruise 2.0, as she and her team are deep in prep for Chanel’s next event: Métiers d’Art, set to debut in Dakar in just a few weeks. Haute couture follows in January, then ready-to-wear in March. Where the house goes next — well, we'll just have to wait and see.
Disclosure: Chanel paid for Fashionista's travel and accommodations to attend the Cruise 2023 Replica show.