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Quantum leap towards the Antique

November 15 2017

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Photo: Olivier Sailland

For Chanel's latest Cruise collection, Karl Lagerfeld has decided to make a temporary rather than a spatial voyage, taking guests back to antiquity revisited by him. A Greece as he imagines it: pleats of moving statues, short togas in tweed embroidery, sails of modern priestesses. Winter will be hot. - Isabelle Cerboneschi


was last June and Paris was gray. Hence this need elsewhere, but a near elsewhere. At the end of the Grand Palais, the security guards checked each person's identity, opened the bags and put them in the X-ray machine. No 714 flight for Sydney in sight, but an immediate tele-transport in the ancient world, destination announced by frescoes reminiscent of those of the villas of Pompeii welcoming the guests.

What strangeness are these broken columns, this copy of a statue that once belonged to Gabrielle Chanel resting there, waiting, and all those false vestiges of a past that only existed in the mind of Karl Lagerfeld, "like the place of origin of beauty and culture, where a tremendous freedom of the body flourishes which has now disappeared, "he says in his note of intent. And that a few hundred meters from the Champs Elysees, in the 21st century.

To present the latest collection Cruise, he invited us to a motionless journey. The taste of a summer in winter.

The option of scrolling in Greece, in a life-size setting was one of the many options chosen by the house, but it was finally Paris. "Parade in Paris seemed important to us in the current context, we French house. It is a way of reaffirming the role of Paris, the capital of creation. The cruise collection is for us a space of freedom. The opportunity, too, to carry that word, "explained the day before Bruno Pavlovsky, president of Chanel fashion activities.

The vestals who opened the parade wore short tunic dresses cut in a material that resembled tweed, but which was actually an embroidery of woven ribbons. They were perched on multicolored Spartans with heels in the shape of columns. No doubt to remind us that the statues of antiquity were not white, but polychrome, set with porcelain eyes.

The girls passed as if to go to an imaginary Agora, high forehead, girded with acanthus leaves and amphora-shaped earrings. "For me it was important to make a collection very Chanel but inspired by another world, other centuries," says Karl Lagerfeld. And to do this he used some elements of Greek culture, but without it being like a lesson in costume history.

The long skirts in pleated sun played with the elements, the dresses veiled and unveiled the skin. The jerseys resembled those "wet draperies" found in certain figures of the Parthenon pediment. "The body was not hidden, it was not something to be ashamed of, as it may have been later. says Karl Lagerfeld in the parade interview. Like today, the body was important. The clothes put it in value. Everything was fluid, unhindered. In this sense, Antiquity carried a very modern message. "

And over the passages, we began to forget the present, tossed between past and near future, calling for a saving beauty. The columns stood out against a dawn sky.

"The Aurora with the golden shoe already appears on the horizon ...

All the colors were confused on his face ...

The moon in its full light illuminated the heavens ... "

Sappho, Odes and Fragments, ed. Gallimard.

What are cruise collections?

The cruise collections that have just arrived in stores and will stay there until spring sales, allow to meet the needs of customers who do not live to the rhythm of the four seasons. - Isabelle Cerboneschi

What are cruise collections? A summer cloakroom in jet lag.

Although this definition is only valid if we live in our latitudes. When it's summer in Paris, it's winter somewhere, and this notion of season is no longer necessary.

They are called "Cruise" (or Cruise ou Resort) because these collections were originally intended for wealthy American clients who would take shelter in warmer skies in the winter. It was also a way of reassorting and re-starting the desire in the shops between the two seasons: spring-summer and autumn-winter.

At the time, fashion was bought in Paris and the seasons were in line with those of the French capital. Today, the collections arrive the same day in all the shops of the marks of the whole world, the notion of cruise is obsolete. But the fashion world loves to cultivate its paradoxes and continues to use this word that is more of a code name than a reality. "For the general public, these notions do not exist. People understand that there is spring-summer and fall-winter and that's it. Cruise collections are above all market logic, "said Olivier Saillard, then director of the Musée Galliéra in Paris during an interview.

Even if their name evokes for the general public only a huge boat filled with people, for the professionals, the cruising collections are taking a place more and more important in the sales calendar: they are delivered in stores in November and some parts can remain on the display until the June sales, a lifetime of 8 months. In this world of fashion where by definition nothing lasts, it is exceptional. No brand wants to articulate figures but according to professionals, the cruise line would represent up to 70% of the turnover of some houses.

The presentation of the collection is a subject in itself: where to invite hundreds of guests (customers, buyers, journalists, VIPs, friends of the house) to make them live a fully placed experience - from breakfast to dinner - under the banner of the brand? The houses compete for ideas to awaken the desire of customers and amaze the blasé pus of journalists, choosing unexpected destinations: Cuba, Rio, Singapore, Palm Springs, Seoul, ... For the 2017 cruise, Chanel has chosen to reinvent the Ancient Greece in the heart of Paris, Louis Vuitton invited his guests to Kyoto, and Dior to Los Angeles, to mention only the traveling brands.

When are the Cruise collections? «I do not know when they appeared in the contemporary sense of the term, certainly in the 1970 years, but in the 1920 years, designers have relocated their shop in Biarritz, Deauville, Cannes. And in these shops, there were clothes a little more adapted to the seaside. This was the case of Chanel, but especially Jean Patou. He participated in the democratization of the garment inspired by the world of sport. Suzanne Lenglen is Jean Patou. He was the first to go outside. The couturiers were then dressmakers. He became a designer of the outdoors, good health, vacationing. The different beach pajamas I bought for the museums are all Jean Patou ", entrusted Olivier Saillard.

The cruise might not have been so successful if the women had not agreed to decompartmentalize their cloakroom, no longer hesitating to wear a little summer dress in winter on a turtleneck sweater and under a large coat, ignoring the seasons.