MIAMI — There may not be any links between Coco Chanel and Miami — not known ones, anyway — but Karl Lagerfeld feels it's about time to draw the connection.
"Why not bring a modern version of Coco to Miami?" joked the designer, sitting in the penthouse of the city's The Raleigh hotel, where Chanel is staging its cruise presentation tonight.
Over the past few years, Chanel has made it a tradition to take its cruise shows on the road, from New York's Grand Central Terminal to an airplane hangar in Santa Monica, Calif. For this excursion, Chanel took over the Raleigh for four days, shutting it down to the general public, with tight security protecting the property like a fortress. The show itself will feature a runway designed to mimic the curved lines of the hotel pool, and a celebrity list that is expected to include Diane Kruger, Zoe Kravitz, Anna Mouglalis and Cat Power.
This being Chanel, over 120 people have been flown in to pull off the feat. Not surprisingly, The Raleigh was buzzing with activity. On Tuesday afternoon, seamstresses from Lagerfeld's Paris studio atelier were putting the finishing touches on the collection in the penthouse suite, while Amanda Harlech was taking a quick break to bask in some Florida sunshine on the terrace. Meanwhile, K109, the "Grand Theft Auto IV" radio station DJed by Lagerfeld, was blasting over the sound system, and the designer and his team were busy doing fittings and accessorizing the runway looks.
Lagerfeld said he chose Miami for Chanel's cruise show because it is quite literally a cruise destination, but there were plenty of other reasons too.
"I like the idea of Miami," he said. "I like the colors, the light. It's an idea of sun, of summer, of carelessness, of easy life, of happiness. Everybody knows Miami, and everybody has a fantasy about it."
Over the past two decades, Miami has gone through several fashion incarnations, perhaps peaking in the early Nineties when Gianni Versace and Madonna kept homes here and frequented the city. Lagerfeld noted today's Miami is far removed from that period."I don't think about that time at all anymore," he said. "There was a kind of permanent sexual alert then, but I have a feeling that it is less the case now. It had a kind of meat-market mood then."
In recent years, Lagerfeld familiarized himself with this city on several occasions, most recently to shoot a campaign here for Chanel. While he has stayed at the Shore Club and the Setai hotels in the past, he seemed particularly taken by The Raleigh this time. "I like The Raleigh because it is like old Hollywood, even if the collection has nothing to do with it," he said. "Miami is the starting point, but this collection is made for the world."
Miami could be considered something of a gateway to Latin and South America, and while some may see Chanel's decision to show here as a way to court emerging markets in those regions, Lagerfeld downplayed the notion, saying that his venue choices are instinctual.
"I don't think for one second about the market, the opportunity, the future," he said. "I think, let's do it by instinct and pick the right thing for the right moment. For the next cruise, in a year, we will go to Venice, because there is a Chanel connection."
And in December, the designer plans to take his pre-fall show to Moscow and, after Venice, is mulling a show at Berlin's Hotel de Rome, located in an old bank building in Germany's capital. With so much traveling in the pipeline, Lagerfeld's idea of a vacation seems to have shifted.
"I travel only for professional reasons," he said. "If not, I stay at home, with my books and my papers. I am not a tourist at all. I was in China for Fendi, and for Chanel, I was in New York for the Costume Institute, and now I am here. I am traveling so much that I need holidays to stay at home, to read, and to not look at my watch."
After Miami, Lagerfeld plans to return to Paris to work on the fall couture collection, which he will present in early July."I can't wait to start couture," he said. "I like what I am doing. The other night, I saw Valentino and Giancarlo Giammetti at the Costume Institute, and they said, 'Oh, we're so happy not working. We can go to the opera, we can go to the ballet.' I said, 'What a bore.' They said, 'But not everyone wants to die on the spot.' There's nothing else I want. I saw enough ballet and enough opera in my life and had enough houses. I don't care about that anymore. I want room service, a nice bed, and a good desk, and books. It's easy. It makes life much lighter."
Tonight's show will feature over 60 looks, and rumor has it that it will end with 10 synchronized swimmers from the U.S. Olympic team plus eight additional ones wearing Lagerfeld-designed swimsuits emblazoned with a letter. The swimmers are expected to jump into the pool and do a ballet performance that will reach its finale when they will line up to spell out Chanel. It's an appropriate nod to The Raleigh, which played host to several Esther Williams films. "As a child, I loved Esther Williams movies," Lagerfeld said. "I am actually staying here in a suite called the Esther Williams Suite."
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