MIAMI — From Monaco to the Magic City.
Chanel touched down in Miami, Florida, this past weekend, staging a replica of its 2022 cruise collection, first seen last May in Monaco. Taking over the Faena hotel, models walked beachside while guests looked on from a cluster of chic red cabanas and two-tone parasols nestled on the white pebbled sand.
Held Friday night just as the sun was setting, the turquoise water and moody sky — there was a touch of rain as the models closed the show — served as a powerful backdrop, illuminating the collection inspired by the luxury and pop culture allure of the tiny European principality.
It’s been 14 years since Karl Lagerfeld staged a legendary runway show in Miami, and Virginie Viard, creative director of the French luxury brand since Lagerfeld’s death, returned with her latest cruise offering of sequined all-in-one mechanic’s overalls, crisp tennis whites and swimsuit-and-tight combos. Cruise collections are core to the DNA of the brand, having been invented by Coco Chanel in 1919 when she decided to showcase her line outside the Paris fashion schedule.
“It kind of reminds me of a time that I’ve never lived in, so suddenly, I feel nostalgic for high heels and bathing suits and a lot of luxury – and that’s definitely never been a part of my life,” Chanel ambassador Kristen Stewart told WWD at the collection’s original staging in Monaco.
The link between Monaco and Miami is intriguing: Each locale has its own version of high-octane glamour, opulence and now Formula 1 racing. The Miami Grand Prix held its first edition last spring, the fifth round of the 2022 Formula One World Championship.
“We come back to Miami, first because we love Miami,” said Bruno Pavlovsky, president of fashion activities and president of Chanel SAS, before the show. The timing aligns with the French brand’s new Miami Design District boutique, unveiled at the end of 2021 and designed by New York-based architect Peter Marino. A piece of art in its own right, Pavlovsky offered that the brand wanted to fete the new location and has been looking for the right time to make a big statement.
He continued, “When we were looking at the show in Monaco, the only possible replica is in Miami,” pointing to the spirit and decor of the city.
For Pavlovsky, the goal of a replica show is clear: to celebrate the local customer with a collection just now hitting the retail floor. “Customer engagement is more and more important,” he observed. “It was very important for us that we bring the collection to them. Yes, they may have seen it in a video, but they were not in Monaco. It’s important for them to see and feel the collection.”
It’s a bold move to go so big in a time of economic uncertainty. “It’s a big question mark,” he said, when asked about recession concerns. “Not for now, but in the next two to six months we probably will see a kind of slowing down. But the impact is difficult to measure today.”
At this moment, he said the brand is still seeing huge traffic in its boutiques, with the holidays being very promising. “We have to adapt ourselves and be able to be supportive to the customer and sometimes be careful, because we don’t know what will be impacting us six months from now,” he said. “At Chanel, we are building the brand step by step; we aren’t trying to do double-digit growth each year. It’s about being able to control the growth, support and service our customer and be sure that we offer the best unique experience.”
A fashion show on a beach lands in the category of unique experiences and as show guests filtered into the space with dreamy French musical standards playing, it was clear this was a well-heeled customer primed to purchase. Most of the crowd wore head-to-toe Chanel, fully accessorized with sunglasses, logo earrings, a fun mix of quilted bags and even a few fingerless gloves. These are customers who closely follow every move the brand makes, and have a hardy appetite for more.
“When you see such a show in person, you want to buy everything,” Pavlovsky said, with a laugh.
The Miami customer is an international one, he noted. To that point, the boutique’s staff speaks 14 languages, ready to serve the needs of a city that sees visitors from all over South and Latin America and beyond.
“I love everything about this collection,” Marion Cotillard, the Academy Award-winning actress and face of Chanel No. 5, said post show in a lush beachside cabana along the runway. Cotillard would know, recently wearing look 44 from the collection at the Cannes Film Festival. “It’s my favorite, I think,” she said of the belted little black dress with billowy sheer sleeves. Cotillard has a deep relationship with the brand, recently voicing Coco Chanel in an immersive short film that debuted at the Venice Film Festival.
The actress was only in town briefly as she is working on “Lee,” a film about Elizabeth “Lee” Miller, the fashion model who became an acclaimed war photographer for Vogue magazine during World War II, alongside Kate Winslet, who has been working on the movie for six years.
“I think that this was made for Kate Winslet. I’m so happy that she’s doing this movie; it’s really her baby. And she’s my favorite actress,” Cotillard said. “So, I knew that she was doing this movie even before she reached out to me and I wanted to be a part of it.”
Chanel had a host of other brand ambassadors in town for the event, adding another touch of French glamor and prestige to the Miami experience.
Lily-Rose Depp, who has worn the brand to many high-profile events including the Met Gala, said, “Virginie and Karl both are so good about making their shows so transformative. I just really feel whenever I see a Chanel show in person, the clothes come to life and the entire context and inspiration, you just can really feel it.”
Depp has been a fan since her youth, calling her love for Chanel “obsessive”, one that began in her mother Vanessa Paradis’ closet, which she often raided.
“The sunglasses that I was wearing today,” she said, “my mom specifically said were hers and she was like, ‘you cannot take these. And I took them.”
The enthusiasm for the brand resonated through attendees, many of whom were shopping off the runway. “It’s funny because I always tell people, every time I’m in a new country or a new city, the first thing I do is go to the Chanel” store, said actress Arden Cho, whose Netflix series “Partner Track” gained lots of buzz this year.
“I literally was capturing all my favorites and then realized, ‘Oh no, it might be the whole collection,’” she exclaimed post show. Cho means business, even having a Chanel birthday cake this year. “When I first started making money, the very first thing I did was buy my mom her first Chanel bag.”
Cho said her mother was a bit jealous the actress got to see the show in person, but planned to buy her a new bag upon her return home.
Post-show the crowd gathered in a space near the runway, toes in the sand, dancing to tunes and lounging in sleek banquettes bathed in a soft pick hue from a neon Chanel sign. The night was capped off by a performance by Niles Rodgers & Chic, with house ambassador Pharrell Williams joining during their track “Get Lucky.”
The next morning the brand held a masterclass talk, inviting 190 students in art, fashion, design and architecture from Miami-area universities to attend. The series, which the brand has paired with previous shows, offers the next generation a unique look inside the ethos of the fashion house.
Answering questions from moderator Tyler Brûlé and the students were Pavlovsky and ambassadors Williams and Caroline de Maiget.
Pavlovsky pointed out that there is much more to the brand outside of the shows it stages, including its commitment to preserve the legacy of the French fashion ecosystem. He spoke of Le19M, the creative hub named using emblematic numbers to Chanel. It houses the embroiderers Lesage and Atelier Montex, the goldsmith Goossens, the hatter Maison Michel, the feather worker Lemarié, the pleater Lognon, and the shoemaker Massaro.
Students asked a mix of questions, including about the topic of sustainability. The executive said the brand has been quietly working on ways to evolve in the area, revealing Chanel is moving to end all plastic usage, a goal he reported it will meet soon. Pavlovsky pointed out the brand doesn’t generally communicate its sustainability practices, but it’s part of all internal conversations.
In five weeks, Chanel will touch down in Dakar, Senegal, to stage the next Métiers d’Art collection. Williams, who passionately shared with the students the importance of including marginalized communities in creative and business conversations, pointed out that the location of the Senegal show is part of an ongoing conversation he has been having with the brand for some time, having mentioned the matter to Lagerfeld when Williams came to Chanel. But the talks got serious on a trip to Japan with Pavlovsky.
The duo revealed for the first time that the emerging luxury destination will host more than just a show. Chanel is planning a three-day festival that will celebrate the creativity of Dakar, with Viard’s Métiers d’Art collection launching what is meant to be an ongoing conversation between the French brand and the capital of Senegal.
The push into a country once occupied by France by a French fashion brand was not lost on Williams. “To come there and do the exact opposite of colonization, I thought was quite interesting,” he said. “Because it’s not just coming here to show. It’s actually working with the artisans, providing so many partnerships. That’s unprecedented.”