The jet-set fashion show is back, with its sunny decor and international front row. But the new world order complicates the seating plan.
In Chanel’s first fashion show outside France since the pandemic, the Monte Carlo waterfront paraded past a competition of models dressed in a light-hearted tribute to grand prix glitz. The 67 models wore racing driver suits crafted in pastel tweed and gold lamé, and helmets emblazoned with the No. 5.
Ukrainian and Russian customers watched from the hotel’s lounge chairs that replaced the gilded chairs at Paris fashion week. Chanel has been the target of social media vitriol in Russia after boutiques in Dubai refused to sell handbags to customers who sales staff said were likely to take the items home to Russia, citing the compliance with the law on sanctions.
“We take the sanctions laws very seriously. The impact on our business is not what we are thinking about right now,” Bruno Pavlovsky, president of fashion at Chanel, said in a video call ahead of the Monte Carlo show. “But we also have many Russian customers who live permanently abroad – in Dubai, on the Riviera, everywhere – and there is no reason why we cannot invite them to the show, as well as customers Ukrainians.”
Actor Kristen Stewart flew in from Los Angeles and rapper G-Dragon from Seoul, while Princess Caroline of Monaco arrived from her nearby beachfront villa. The dress code on the catwalk was glamorous and ironic, with baseball caps, fingerless gloves and black and white plaid sweaters. There were also nods to casino culture with tiny handbags fashioned to look like slot machines and decks of playing cards.
But for Chanel, which has grown its digital following during the pandemic, the audience that really matters isn’t the few hundred on the lounge chairs, but those the images will reach via Instagram and TikTok. Much like the release of a new album or the release of a music video, a cruise collection showcase is a device to draw the eyes of the world to what Chanel looks like.
“In the past, we were very focused on the people invited to the show, but now we are thinking just as much about the people who are not in the room,” Pavlovsky said. “Making a good show is a way of feeding the imagination of what Chanel is. The guests here in Monte-Carlo are privileged, of course, but they are no longer the only ones we think of.
The Cruise collections, unveiled in May but not on sale until November, were originally designed for an elite needing a warm weather wardrobe for the winter sun. But they have become popular fashion content for consumers looking for inspiration for their summer vacation wardrobes. With many shoppers ready to pack their bags for the first time in three years, this cruise season is set to be more hyped than ever, defying predictions that international fashion shows would die out.
Designer Virginie Viard collaborated with directors Sofia and Roman Coppola on a trailer for the show, which combines a video of models wearing the new collection lying on speedboats with images of Grace Kelly in a tweed suit, Coco Chanel wearing a Breton stripe sweater on vacation, and Christy Turlington and Linda Evangelista in sequined Chanel on the Riviera. “We learned a lot about how to maximize storytelling through digital channels,” Pavlovsky said.
Demand for Chanel has rebounded so much after the pandemic that, despite price increases for basic handbag styles having far exceeded inflation, boutiques have limited sales to one handbag per month for each customer in order to keep stock on the shelves. Pavlovsky defended the price increases, which he attributed to increases in the cost of raw materials and the costs incurred by adopting more sustainable production. “I don’t see any way to reverse that,” he said. “Things are going to get even more expensive.”