“I DON’T KNOW HOW THEY COULD POSSIBLY TOP IT,
unless they build something bigger than this cruise ship,” says Margot Robbie, seemingly miniscule in a multicoloured sequinned dress as she stands next to the epically proportioned La Pausa cruise liner that’s been temporarily docked under the nave of the Grand Palais.
Chanel’s preferred Paris runway venue has been transformed into a cruise ship terminal for the duration of the Cruise 19 show, and newly crowned ambassador Robbie has fallen under the Chanel spell at her first-ever runway experience for the house. “I don’t know how it could possibly be more incredible than it’s already been!”
The actor’s awe-inspired reaction isn’t surprising. She’s not the first to be Chanel-struck after witnessing one of the brand’s all-out extravaganzas. It’s an initiation process for anyone lucky enough to have an entrée into the Parisian fashion calendar. And Robbie has been on a crash course in all things Chanelian since touching down yesterday. “I’ve had the most Chanel day ever. Honestly, I couldn’t be more immersed in the world right now. I went to the archives this morning, then to Coco Chanel’s apartment, and obviously I’m wearing Chanel and I’m at the show, it’s just a very Chanel day. And we’re in Paris, at the centre.” For a second, she’s not an in-demand producer and Golden Globe and Academy Award-nominated actress, she’s the wide-eyed girl born and raised on a farm in Queensland. Chanel will do that to you.
It doesn’t take much pressing to glean Robbie’s favourite moment from the show. She loves the opening look: the navy-striped trousers, logo-emblazoned sweater and fresh white beret, belt and boat shoes worn by fellow Australian, model Adut Akech. “I love nautical-themed clothes. I have to stop myself from buying too much because it ends up becoming my entire wardrobe. So when that first outfit came out – I’m all about the stripes, the berets. It was so cool. So cool. And Coco Chanel started with hats so… you can quiz me, I know everything about her!” she laughs.
“LAGERFELD knows an opportunity to SPIN A TALE when he sees one”
Robbie is right, her crash course paid off. And, as with most of Karl Lagerfeld’s collections for Chanel, it is helpful to understand the context he is working in to truly understand the genius behind the stagecraft. Back to the beginning, when Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, fashion’s most visionary woman, was busy transforming what started out as a modest millinery business into the behemoth the brand is today, she presented a small collection in the autumn of 1919, with the intention of delivering light and easy clothes destined for holiday resorts – her beloved Riviera town Biarritz in particular.
The collection built on the sailor-suit outfits she had already presented in the seaside resort Deauville years before, revolutionising the rigidity of womenswear worn in that era. The cruise collection, perfectly timed between seasons and aimed at the upwardly mobile, was born, and fashionable yachting, cruising and seaside strolling would never be the same.
A skilful storyteller, Karl Lagerfeld knows an opportunity to spin a tale when he sees one. This time, the creative director’s references included images of Coco irreverently dressed in tomboy Bermuda shorts or wide-cut men’s trousers and an oversized blazer, eyes shaded by big, round sunglasses and basking on the deck of one of the yachts belonging to her lover, the Duke of Westminster.
For 2018, it wasn’t Coco but Gigi and Bella Hadid, Catherine Mcneil and Stella Maxwell pulling into port in a series of the modern twin-sets. These aren’t the type your primary-school librarian liked to wear – these are matching tweed skirt suits cut loose from the body, slim capri-cut pastel pantsuits worn with buttoned-up shirts, striped knit top and skirt sets, sequinned evening sets (revealing just a sliver of waist) and two-piece top and bottoms that feel just as right for the Melbourne Cup Carnival as they do for a place at the Captain’s table.
“The little all-white bouclé suit Catherine was wearing is a future-classic, but youthful and totally wearable at the same time,” ELLE fashion director Rachel Wayman noted from her front-row vantage point. “The jacket is a cooler cut, oversized, rounded shoulders and a little shapeless (in the best possible way). I love how it’s teamed with a miniskirt but I’d also break it down and team it with denim.” She predicts the chic turtlenecks and La Pausa swinging micro-bags (named after a property Coco owned in the charming village of Roquebrune-cap-martin) will be street-style favourites this season, along with striped everything and no-brainer berets in tweed, cotton or sequins. “The white tights may or may not work off the runway, but team those suits with little ballet slippers or sneakers, a T-shirt underneath – you’re set.”
SHIPPING NEWS Margot Robbie at her first Chanel show, the Cruise 19 collection
ALL HANDS ON DECK: Lagerfeld had a 100mlong ocean liner constructed in the middle of the Grand Palais