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Chanel debuts its Cruise 2021 collection with first-ever digital-only presentation

With the CoViD-19 outbreak, countless businesses across the world have been forced to give up on initial plans for 2020 and adapt with new strategies, while others have made long overdue reflections on the existing system. In the fashion world, fashion shows have either been cancelled, postponed, or going online, and that includes Chanel’s Cruise 2021 runway show.

The Parisian house originally planned to create a Capri-inspired collection for the Cruise 2021 season, and was slated to send its VIP guests to the Italian island for the collection debut — previously scheduled for 7 May. Such plans, naturally, fell apart due to health concerns, lockdowns and travel bans worldwide.

Instead of casting away a whole season of clothing, Chanel’s creative director Virginie Viard adapted the design approach by using fabrics that they already had available, crafting pieces that would tie in with a trip around the Mediterranean islands.

The mood captured in the ensuing Cruise 2021 collection brings to mind the scent of eucalyptus, the bright pink shade of bougainvillea blooms, and that free, laid-back allure of legendary actresses in the 1960s — think Brigitte Bardot — who holidayed on the Italian coasts and the French Riviera. Such carefree, sun-drenched vacations call for light packing, and Viard has given us just that with her Cruise 2021 creations for Chanel, conceived to give us “a wardrobe that can be carried in a little suitcase on wheels, a shopper and an embroidered handbag”.

That means easy to wear, versatile pieces that all work together perfectly, and, for some of them, can be transformed into something entirely different. Examples from the collection include long skirts that can be pulled up and worn as strapless dresses, long chiffon jackets that can take you from a day at the beach to the bustling bar at nightfall and beyond.

There are also sophisticated sheer dresses in fine lamé that will dance along with your every move, coupled with detachable jackets that can be transformed into a top simply by slipping into a pair of crêpe shorts.

To realise the vision of a dreamy island getaway Viard had in mind, the Chanel team managed to bring Capri over to its Rue Cambon studio with golden sets mimicking a Mediterranean seaside. Images and videos, captured by photographer Karim Sadli, were recently unveiled on Chanel’s website and social media platforms in lieu of a fashion show: You’ll see models relaxing under a simulated golden sunset and a light studio breeze, dressed in highlighted pieces such as an unlined pink tweed suit and sequinned bikini top.

The digital debut marks the very first time Chanel has ever presented a collection without staging a runway presentation, but while the online release was a decision made due to heavy lockdowns (the collection itself was pulled together in just three weeks after the reopening of Chanel’s design studio and a few of the factories), Viard shared that “it was always going to be a light and fairly small show”.

Rather than dreaming up fantastical shows and designs like Karl Lagerfeld, Viard has always had a different vision for Chanel — one that consists of smaller shows featuring simple, luxurious and charming designs that incorporate seamlessly into the wardrobes of modern day women.

Apart from effortless, versatile and refined designs, 14 of the 51 looks from the Cruise 2021 collection are made using sustainable silk and cotton with Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certification, an effort that forms part of the house’s ambitious list of commitments in tackling climate change known as Mission 1.5°.

Some of the looks we love from the collection.

Head to Chanel to see the full digital presentation of its Cruise 2021 collection.

Cindie Chan
Style Editor
Fashion blogger turned editor, Cindie has spent over seven years covering all things stylish in the digital world. When she’s not busy poring over the latest covetable releases or attending the most talked-about fashion events in town, you’ll find her enjoying some precious downtime with her newborn son and sweet dog Rosy.