When it comes to style, the French have even more reason to bask in superiority.
The latest calendar has brought powerhouse brands (and their mainly exotic-locales Resort slash Cruise collections) back to France, the motherland of fashion. Concluding the season is Gucci, who will show its collection today in the prehistoric wonder town of Arles. But before that, Chanel, Dior, and Louis Vuitton showed their Cruise collections here, too, marking this fashion homeland as one fabulous staycation.
In Gucci’s case, it seems choosing to show in France was a teaser for the main event—the Italian heritage brand recently announced that it will show in Paris next October for the Spring/Summer 2019 season—a bummer to those Italians who share equal pride possessing Gucci as they do eating pasta Bolognese, but alas, French luxury group Kering helms the house. Belgian designer Raf Simons is also moving his namesake men’s collection from its two-year stint in New York City back to the City of Lights, where New York-based brands such as Thom Browne and Altuzarra have also shown for a couple of seasons now.
But the French have always lived by the credo “loger â la bonne enseigne,” or, as we would say, “there’s no place like home.” Earlier this month, native houses—including Chanel, Dior, and Louis Vuitton—displayed not only gorgeous collections, but at locations that reminded us of why it’s one of the top tourist destinations in the world.
Since 2005, Karl Lagerfeld and the house of Chanel have turned the epically proportioned Grand Palais into every fantasy for the Chanel gal. Private airline? Chanel icebergs? A Chanel supermarche and Bistro? The Grand Palais has also seen waterfalls and rocket ships. This season, the master created his own Titanic-like vessel to show off a sea-worthy collection that had pieces that appealed to the classic and new Chanel woman: pleated skirts with double-breasted blazers, a riff on fisherman sweaters paired with mariner-striped pants for the classicists, disco-diva metallic leather ensembles, ’80s-inspired shredded denim looks, and more PVC-coated looks. As the models took their last walks, they flanked a double-sided staircase to stand alongside Lagerfeld, who welcomed everyone aboard.
The ship’s hull opened and guests entered into what genuinely looked like a deck of a luxury cruise ship. A grand piano serenaded the guests as they boarded the SS La Pausa; deck chairs were soon littered with Chanel bags. Glasses were served with endless champagne while dinner was passed around as bite-size servings before the space turned into a disco party. Appropriately, a DJ set played the theme song from Love Boat. While the ship was only on display for that one event, there will be plenty to see this summer at the Grand Palais with the Kupka: Pioneer of Abstraction and Artist & Robots exhibits.
Dior kicked off the trifecta of shows to finish the month. It also happened to be during the countdown to French Mother’s Day, and the traffic en route to Chantilly was so congested it took two-and-a-half hours to arrive at the stables of Domaine Chantilly. As if on cue, a hearty rain started as guests took their seats. The show took place in a rodeo ring festooned with ribbons like a circus tent, with front row guests clamoring to join the huddled fashion masses in the second and third rows to avoid getting soaked. The show then opened with eight Mexican horsewomen, known as escaramuzas, riding whites horses. It was quite dramatic watching the women guide the horses to an intricate galloping pattern set to a live jazz-rock band under the bright lights and heavy rain.
Drama aside, there was plenty of beautiful clothes; equestrian daywear in Toile de Jouy fabrics, bar jackets with full skirts, leather lace as tops and skirts, and intricate embroidery decorating eveningwear. Following the show, guests waited for umbrella-toting ushers to escort them inside the stables for a Spanish-French feast. Tables overflowing with cured meats, cheeses, seasonal fruits—all washed down with tequila, gin or wine—welcomed wet, tired, and hungry guests while artistic director Maria Grazia Chiuri held court. As fantastic and grand as the stables were, a trip back to Chantilly to visit the main house is a summer day trip must.
More art, less drama was the mood at Louis Vuitton, which chose the Fondation Maeght in Saint Paul de Vence to show its Cruise collection on Monday. While not quite relentlessly rainy as Friday night’s Dior show, a light shower on the hilltop village caused a foggy mist, giving the freshly pebbled garden that served as runway an eerie feeling. The massive monolith sculptures by the likes of Joán Miro, Marc Chagall, and Alberto Giacometti added to that feeling.
The collection reflected much of Nicolas Ghesquière’s modernized retro work for the house in the last five years, but whipped up in new incarnations and always with a knack for billowy tailoring. The overall look included mutton-sleeve boxy jackets and shirts, exaggerated lapels, draped and tied mini-skirts, and city shorts the designer favors all combined made for one sexy magpie. Celebrity guests, like Emma Stone, Jennifer Connelly, Sienna Miller, and Lea Seydoux, who all wore looks from the spring collection, looked right at home in the impressive art center. Along with the clothes, the guests could take in the current exhibit Plus de Lumière by Korean artist Lee Bae.
While fashion has gone global so that even the most unlikely places can boast a fashion week—mainly in part thanks to the Internet—it’s reassuring to the know that France is still the reigning country when it comes to design. Greats such as Coco Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Hubert de Givenchy, Cristobal Balenciaga, and many more may be laid to rest, but the country they called home is still number one when it comes to clothes.END
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