Lau­ren Ho boards the Queen Mary 2 for a glam­orous cross­ing to New York that re­calls the golden age of cruis­ing

Sunday Times - - Travel -

As I smoothed my em­bel­lished, one shoul­der, feather-trimmed dress into a plush sofa in the Cham­pagne Bar, two women sit­ting on ei­ther side of me raised their del­i­cate Wa­ter­ford Crys­tal flutes in a spon­ta­neous toast. “To the golden age of cruise travel,” said one, her di­a­mond neck­lace shim­mer­ing in the soft evening sun­shine. Her friend, wear­ing silk or­ganza, her sil­ver hair piled loosely on top of her head, told me that they cross the At­lantic on the Queen Mary 2 ev­ery year, but Cu­nard’s Transat­lantic Fash­ion Week cruise was their first. “There’s no bet­ter way to re-live the hey­day of cruis­ing than on a transat­lantic cross­ing on the Queen Mary,” she said. It was day two of Cu­nard’s seven-night east­bound jour­ney from Southamp­ton to New York, timed to ar­rive in the city for New York Fash­ion Week. My new friends, along with the tuxe­doed men and ele­gant women in taffeta gowns waft­ing down the im­pres­sive dou­ble stair­case, served as a re­minder that ocean lin­ers were once the epit­ome of glam­our.

At the turn of the cen­tury, such lux­u­ries as cham­pagne bars, lav­ish ball­room par­ties and fine dining lured the leisured classes to sea, with film stars in­clud­ing Mar­lene Di­et­rich, El­iz­a­beth Tay­lor, Humphrey Bog­art and Lau­ren Bacall join­ing voy­ages with a de rigueur range of ex­trav­a­gant travel ac­ces­sories, from per­son­alised Go­yard trunks to hat­boxes, van­ity cases and gar­ment bags over­flow­ing with haute-cou­ture fin­ery, fur coats, tiaras and pre­cious jew­els.

Day­wear, in turn, led to the birth of the cruise col­lec­tion, a con­cept orig­i­nally cre­ated for those in need of a wardrobe for their mid­sea­son trav­els. High-fash­ion houses — in­clud­ing Dior, Yves Saint Lau­rent, Gucci and Ralph Lau­ren — now use it as an op­por­tu­nity to in­tro­duce a must-have mid-sea­son col­lec­tion into the mar­ket.

Al­though for­mal wear is no longer essen­tial, the Cu­nard pas­sen­ger’s predilec­tion for dolling up is still on point. “Shorts, T-shirts and base­ball caps should be banned,” sniffed Doreen, a petite 80-some­thing, from be­hind her menu at the ship’s Bri­tan­nia Club Res­tau­rant.

Part of the cruise line’s spe­cial “event cruises” — for which other themes in­clude the Ge­neal­ogy Cruise and The Na­tional Sym­phony Orches­tra — Transat­lantic Fash­ion Week is now an an­nual af­fair.

Cu­rated by Gail Sackloff, for­mer Lon­don-based mer­chan­dise di­rec­tor of Saks Fifth Av­enue, and his­to­rian and style com­men­ta­tor Colin Mc­Dow­ell MBE, the event com­bines fash­ion shows and “au­di­ences with spe­cial guests”, which left me with mild wardrobe anx­i­ety.

I needn’t have wor­ried. This voy­age — as with the cruise line’s other themed events — is mas­ter­minded with the Cu­nard pas­sen­ger in mind: an ex­pe­ri­ence that em­braces their in­ter­ests, such as a fond­ness for a sense of oc­ca­sion, while bring­ing some­thing dif­fer­ent to the ta­ble.

The cruise is a fas­ci­nat­ing glimpse into a world usu­ally only open to fash­ion-in­dus­try in­sid­ers. For ex­am­ple, Julien Mac­don­ald — de­signer to stars in­clud­ing Jen­nifer Lopez, Tay­lor Swift and Kim Kar­dashian — prompted much ex­cite­ment. “The per­fect first fash­ion show to at­tend,” said one woman glee­fully.

Else­where on the ship, events in­cluded an ex­hi­bi­tion of fash­ion il­lus­tra­tions fea­tur­ing never-seen-be­fore works by the likes of Bil Dono­van, Dior’s artist in res­i­dence, along with film screen­ings and talks and work­shops by Colin Mc­Dow­ell.

Away from the fash­ion week pro­gramme it was busi­ness as usual: bridge games, ball­room danc­ing, af­ter­noon tea, and brisk, wind­blown walks along the out­door track that en­cir­cles the ship, fol­lowed by lazy, sun-drenched deck days as we ap­proached New York.

Evenings were dressy af­fairs. “Oh, I do love a tux,” guf­fawed a flam­boy­ant Amer­i­can, who, out of the 4 000 or so peo­ple on board, I kept bump­ing into. “What’s the point of cross­ing the At­lantic if you aren’t go­ing to do it in style?”

In a world typ­i­cally known for its aloof­ness, there’s some­thing very re­fresh­ing about Transat­lantic Fash­ion Week. De­void of any high main­te­nance drama, the aim here is sim­ply to bring fash­ion to the peo­ple.

● This year’s Transat­lantic Fash­ion Week cruise de­parts Southamp­ton on Septem­ber 2 and costs from £919

(R16 460) per per­son, in­clud­ing a one-way flight. The line-up in­cludes fash­ion writer Colin Mc­Dow­ell and Gail Sackloff, a con­sul­tant to the fash­ion in­dus­try.

● White Star is Cu­nard’s agent in South Africa. Con­tact them on 011 463 3293 or visit whites­tar.co.za.


“What’s the point of cross­ing the At­lantic if you aren’t go­ing to do it in style?”

Pic­ture: Christo­pher Ison

COCK­TAIL HOUR A model poses in a Julien Mac­don­ald de­sign on board the Queen Mary 2.

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