V Investigate: What Is A “Cruise Collection”?

Life isn’t black and white, and fashion isn’t either. 

Ever feel uncomfortable about the in-between? Well, that’s where the “cruise”, also known as “resort,” collections that designers come in. They showcase squarely in the transition between April showers and May flowers. Life isn’t black and white, and fashion isn’t either. 

Sure we have our classic Fall/Winter and Spring/Summer runways, but then we also have all those grey areas – both literally and figuratively – we’re talking about those times when it is neither hot nor cold, overcast or sunny, and you’re left standing in front of your wardrobe with the daunting task of dressing appropriately.

Cruise, interchangeable with “resort,” collections have very literal roots: For one, these itemized runway apparel were easy and breezy, tailor-made for the upper socioeconomic echelon that vacationed on those pesky off-months. Let us all recall the time after tax-day but before the unofficial start of summer that is Memorial Day weekend. It is a period oftentimes likened to the millennial “hump day” – that mid-week slump where you’re neither here nor there, anticipating rest but also wired on pending work. 

Accordingly, resort collections are on-season for consumers in the Russo-Slavic, mid- and far-east because their climates and cultural calendar are at odds with our own western hemispheric conditions. Furthermore, the harvest season that falls in April marks the new year for many cultural ethnic groups. Think: Persian Norwuz and Orthodox Easter.

The latest resort show by the house of Dior took place in Marrakech, Morocco: Case in point. Moroccan model, Nora Attal, reported exclusively on the show from her native country that was documented Instagram stories, keeping a verbal diary account of the experience. Dior’s cruise beauty epitomized beating the rising temperatures. That is to say, hair was whipped off of shoulders, tied up behind headbands of tied scarves crafted in local textiles. Mascara was waterproof and any makeup applied first went over primer to prevent melting off of products applied.  

Historically, Chanel was the first designer to introduce resort collections in 1919. It was a mid-seasonal affair of loose-fitting kaftan and tunic silhouettes and scandalously unsheathed dresses by Gabrielle Chanel for the society bunch. Later, in 1983, Karl Lagerfeld capitalized on those women escaping flocking to more temperate climates and swapped outerwear for light layers that could be peeled back or added to. The paradoxical versatility of cruise can be attributed to Chanel’s late godfather, Lagerfeld.

Despite this trailblazing turn over for what a cruise collection entails, he revisited the original nautical motif in 2017 but most closely reflected the concept with his final resort showing for 2019. The show, unsurprisingly set in the Grand Palais, featured an indoor cruise-liner and nautical motifs, as well as stripes in red, blue, and white as the main color scheme. The models sported shorts and bolero-like blazers that were anything but tapered, reflecting Coco Chanel’s penchant for unshapely clothing that doesn’t skim the body.

In modern times, resort refers to the business of fashion. That is to say, it debuts during the period after fall/winter has been discounted and prior to spring/summer items hitting shelves. Furthermore, there are sometimes winter pieces mixed into the bunch because practically speaking, not everyone encounters the TSA, opting out of vacation for whatever reason. In 2015, Derek Lam reportedly explained the resort or cruise show’s return as being, “about creating desirable pieces that can take you from October through early spring,”

Then there are game changers like Proenza Schouler that altered the concept of resort for a financially friendly decision to merge ready-to-wear with resort when in 2016, they opted to sell pre-Fall items the day after their debut. This combining of seasonal showings reduced cost while reaping profit. 

Cruise collections are also the optimal time for designers to step away from the hustle and bustle of the traditional bi-annual runway shows and highlight their unique vision a part from style trends. Make no mistake, their departure from the schedule is not to the departure gate at an airport for vacationing. Designers choose specific landmarks to plant their visionary seed – and just in time for spring no less. Take Louis Vuitton’s show at Rio de Janeiro’s Niterói Contemporary Art Museum in Brazil, home to over 10 UNESCO heritage sites. According to editor-in-chief of London-based, fittingly biannual magazine Tanked, Caroline Issa describes cruise as being “rather commercial,” and therefore when, “presented in such magical contexts, they may seem even more exciting,” than shows held during fashion week. 

The juxtaposition of a pared back editorial look fit for the sidewalk that tiptoes into street wear, with the magnificence of architectural and Amazonian settings, makes for an effortless marketing tactic. In the words of NYT Chief Fashion Critic and former model, Vanessa Friedman, “The goal is to position themselves as the royalty of the industry: authorities not just on clothes, but on all related aspects of design and lifestyle and on sucking you, the fashion buyer or the fashion viewer, ever deeper into their orbits.” But the concept of resort collections being out of the orbital of mainstream styles that caters to specific ways of dressing as is done in regularly scheduled shows, is not so much an exclusively cruise concept this year. Why? With the upcoming MET Gala’s “Notes on Camp,” genre, the entire idea is to stray away from the accepted- the trending- and opt for soloist looks united by being different: kitsch, unexpected, ironic, and even abstract.

Stay tuned for coverage of the upcoming resort shows and the impending MET Gala with V Magazine and VMAN.

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