LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION. Nowadays it's not enough for luxury labels to hold off-season shows for their cruise and pre-autumn lines in far-flung and glamorous spots; they also need a stunning and Instagram-worthy backdrop to show their designer wares to an ever-hungrier and media-savvier fashion consumer.
Also known as “resort”, the cruise collections – in stores from November until January, a period of the year when women of a certain pedigree historically headed to seaside resorts or took to the ocean – were once deemed the more commercially viable siblings of their ready-to-wear counterparts, thus not worthy of the whole shebang of a full production. Not any longer.
This was clearly in evidence last month as the cruise season kicked off with a Korean extravaganza, courtesy of the maison that started the trend of the itinerant show: Chanel. The Parisian label staged its cruise 2015 presentation at Dongdaemun Design Plaza, a gleaming Zaha Hadid-designed complex that recalls a spaceship that's just landed on one of Seoul's bustling shopping districts.
Not to be outdone, two days after Chanel, Louis Vuitton beckoned the fashion crowd to Palm Springs, California, where another sci-fiinspired building proved to be a fitting setting for the unveiling of its cruise range. Models paraded down an outdoor runway on the grounds of the huge Bob and Dolores Hope Estate overlooking Coachella Valley, whose centrepiece is a dramatic modernist house designed to resemble a volcano by architect John Lautner.
Also created in the '70s, though completed only in 1989, is the Palais Bulles, owned by designer Pierre Cardin. Located just above Cannes and with panoramas of the French Riviera, the residence, aptly nicknamed “Bubble Palace” for its rounded shapes and organic forms, is the brainchild of Hungarian architect Antti Lovag. Dior put it on the fashion map a few days after the Louis Vuitton event, to showcase its cruise line as the sun set on a balmy Mediterranean Sea.
Although you'd think that choosing such photogenic locations might upstage the finery on show, it's clear that these fashion houses are on to something. Just look at the publicity and social-media attention generated by these one-of-a-kind spectacles and their venues, and you'll see that it was almost certainly worth the effort. It also sets expectations even higher as brands vie to outdo one another season after season and leave the fashion caravan wondering where they'll take us next.