Gucci brought Stevie Nicks and Harry Styles together for an exclusive show, Chanel built a luxury train station and there were so many A-listers at Louis Vuitton, it was like an Oscars afterparty.
If you are wondering whether it's always fashion week somewhere, you'd be right. But the Cruise shows are no ordinary fashion week. Consider it a playground of sorts: where luxury megabrands spend millions transporting both VIP guests and editors to off-piste locations for blockbuster catwalk shows. A Dior-branded private jet to Marrakesh? No problem. A vintage yacht around the Statue of Liberty? Courtesy of Louis Vuitton. Not only does this generate dedicated media coverage beyond the traditional fashion weeks, it engages the world's wealthiest customers with elaborate one-off experiences. But does the investment pay off? According to data analyst Brandwatch, Gucci's Roman excursion racked up the greatest number of online mentions (332,000) on key platforms including Twitter and Instagram. As for the clothes, rather than simply playing second fiddle to the oft-elaborate sets, the collections are big business for retail. As the collections that will sit on the shop floor the longest (November to June) without going into markdown, they have more commercial clout than ever. Style had a front-row seat.
All aboard the Chanel Express. Ali MacGraw (alive, well and truly resplendent at 80), Lily-Rose Depp and Keira Knightley were among the international guests transported to the French capital for Virginie Viard's debut collection as solo fashion designer at Chanel. To the Grand Palais, Chanel's home from home, which was transformed into a belle époque railway station, complete with train tracks, platforms (each bore a sign for a destination such as Venice, Saint-Tropez and even Edinburgh) and a grand station cafe. Guests piled in for a preshow silver-service breakfast, complete with smoked salmon, pastries and eggs with truffle — trust the French to do petit dejeuner with such finesse. After more than 30 years at Lagerfeld's side, Viard is well versed in house codes: true to Chanel form, bankable two-tone boots, monochrome and tweed skirt suits prevailed. But there was more than a hint of newness, too. Clean lines, seen in wide-legged trousers and utilitarian trench coats, nodded to a more minimal aesthetic — watch this space.
Alessandro Michele took guests on a journey through his native Rome; first, a visit to his favourite antique book store, Antica Libreria Cascianelli, where guests picked up their invitation, followed by the show itself at Musei Capitolini — considered the oldest museum in the world (conceived in 1471 and opened to the public in 1734) — which Michele used to visit on weekends as a child. "I came because I didn't like football or amusement parks. I was always interested in art and I became obsessed with architecture here. There are antiquities that have never left," he said backstage. Inclusivity and gender-fluidity have long been Michele's brand pillars, and this season saw the creative director address politics alongside poetry. His message? Freedom — specifically freedom of choice, supporting sexual and reproductive rights. "My body, my choice" was embroidered on a purple jacquard trouser suit, while an evening gown was embellished with a uterus, with flowers in place of ovaries. Some looks displayed the date May 22, 1978, the day the law was passed legalising abortion in Italy. "Women have to be respected … they should be free to choose what they want," Michele said after the show. Referencing the recent furore over abortion bans in America, an exhausted Michele admitted his team had been working on the collection right up until the show began.
Politics aside, there was — as ever — plenty of fashion to dissect and decipher (97 looks to be precise). Click-bait accessories featured, from a Mickey Mouse-embossed bucket bag to a Gucci-branded guitar case (the ultimate groupie accoutrement). For clothing, the 1970s prevailed, with Woodstock-inspired maxidresses, high-waisted flared trouser suits, floppy hats and stacked platforms nodding to the designer's favourite era. It set the scene for the after-party, where 1970s poster girl and Michele muse Stevie Nicks took to the stage for a medley of hits, including two duets with Harry Styles — the intergenerational duo perfectly summing up Gucci's commercial appeal.
At first glance, JFK airport seemed an unlikely location for the fashion pack. In fact the iconic former TWA Flight Centre, designed in 1962 by the Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen and decommissioned in 2001, was a perfect fit for Vuitton's architecture-obsessed creative director, who first visited it in 1991. "I'm old," Nicolas Ghesquière laughed backstage after the show, "so I landed here on one trip. I always remember the place, here, this terminal — arriving to this fantastic city, and at the same time at this masterpiece of architecture." Models made their way through the futurist lobby in looks inspired by Wall Street (Pinstripes! Power shoulders!) and Gotham City. Silhouettes inspired by the 1980s prevailed, from bubble miniskirts to batwing sleeves: both characteristics of Ghesquière's 20-year catalogue of work.
The 2,000-strong audience reflected the brand's wide reach. Uma Thurman, Julianne Moore and Michelle Williams sat alongside Hollywood newcomers Indya Moore, Emma Stone and Sophie Turner, in a guest list that read more like the Oscars than a fashion show. Perhaps as a nod to the star power in the room, this was Ghesquière's most embellished couture-level collection yet. Indeed, a custom evening look, complete with glistening cape, showed up on Julianne Moore on the Cannes red carpet a week later.
With just 200 guests, Max Mara closed Cruise season in intimate style in Berlin. At first glance, the ultra-luxurious, classic Italian label and the cool German city may seem at odds: in fact, its British creative director, Ian Griffiths, grew up obsessed with "Bauhaus, Bowie and Cabaret". Not only did the presentation mark the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, it was the first fashion show to be held in the iconic Neues Museum — destroyed in the Second World War, then refurbished by British architect David Chipperfield in 2009. Griffiths is a modern-art obsessive and former architecture student, and both he and Max Mara have a long-standing affinity with the arts; Chipperfield's raw modern aesthetic played the perfect canvas for the tonal collection.
Marlene Dietrich, a Berlin native, provided further inspiration: high-waisted wide-leg trousers and sharp-shouldered jackets featured throughout, confirming Max Mara's commitment to not only dressing but also empowering the working woman. Indeed, Dietrich's unconventional influence was touched on throughout the trip; the German singer and actress Ute Lemper performed a tribute cabaret at Clärchens Ballhaus the previous evening, before walking the runway in a Dietrich-inspired white tuxedo. Of course, the brand's signature camel coats had starring roles, too, reimagined as a belted trench, an oversized teddy shearling and in sleek chocolate brown. Roll on winter.
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Written by: Jane McFarland
© The Times of London