It’s that time of the year again, your favorite fashion houses are headed to astonishing worldwide locations for their annual extravagant cruise shows. These luxury fashion houses have become accustomed to combining dreamy and unexpected backdrops to constantly push the boundaries of lavishness and entertainment.

But what’s a cruise show you may ask? Let’s dissect together the origins of such displays of wealth, creativity and fashion gymnastics that luxury brands put forth.

Prior to getting you familiar with the ins and outs of fashion cruise shows, it’s essential to introduce you to their exact lingo first. Cruise shows are also known as Pre-spring, Resort or even Holiday collections. As background, these shows were initially created for the wealthy elite taking mid-season holidays on yachts and were relatively niche at the time. Today these days are over as these specific shows have become among the essential fashion activations of the year,  providing us with a sense of escapism and the feeling that fashion is indeed borderless, limitless and inherently free.

After all, what’s an easy way to get clients to visualize themselves wearing your latest silk creations in Capri? Take clients to Capri, set the scenery and let the magic happen.

The first brand to take a leap of faith on cruise collections was Chanel in 1919 after Gabrielle Chanel realized that clients needed an updated closet for their Mediterranean holidays which involved easy-to-wear pieces, lighter fabrics and adapted cuts for the eclectic cruise lifestyle. In short, capsule collections were adapted to warmer weather, resorts and leisure trips afforded by the jet-setting elite.. However, fashion has come a long way since then with consumer habits evolving amidst an increasingly extravagant luxury offering and brands having to devise inventive ways to surprise their most affluent consumers.

Courtesy of Fendi
“Gucci Cosmogonie” showed in the historic Castel del Monte in Andria, Italy.

In a way cruise shows also act as a gap filler between the two production cycles imposed by the arrival of Fall/Winter and Spring/Summer collections in stores which tends to slow down client’s consumption. After all, the frenetic fashion calendar symbolizes  the fast consumption cycle adopted by clients with an   insatiable appetite for newness and novelty. Fashion whims aside, these collections allow brands to appeal to a larger global audience, target emerging markets and tackle clients who live cross climates.

Since these great fashion moments always happen outside the fashion calendar sky is truly the limit and impossible is actually nothing. However, the challenge is making sure that in a culturally aware digital world,  these brands remain as ethical, appropriate and cohesive as ever when showcasing in markets they label as exotic to avoid falling into the colonial tone deaf- trap.

Louis Vuitton’s 2017 cruise show staged at the impressive Niterói Museum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Many of these shows have been a unanimous success, especially when hosted in spectacular settings. Amongst my personal favorite cruise shows, I recall Louis Vuitton’s 2017 cruise show staged at the impressive Niterói Museum in Rio – a futuristic moment of extravaganza under the creative direction of Nicolas Ghesquière which was most probably one of the most visually appealing fashion moments I can recall. More recently, Dior’s latest Mumbai show held at the historical Gateway of India under the creative direction of Maria Grazia Chuiri has put India’s craftsmanship at the epicenter of the global conversation in a monumental set up. Not to mention, Fendi’s 2007 cruise show which was held nowhere else than at the Great Wall of China while Chanel’s 2019’s show ‘La Pausa’ happened next to a real-size cruise ship at the Grand Palais. Lastly, Dior 2016’s Cruise was hosted in front of a spectacular landscape at Pierre Cardin’s iconic Palais Bulles in the South of France.

Courtesy of CHANEL

Nostalgia aside, the current cruise fashion calendar is packed and upcoming cruise shows include a roaster of worldwide locations always as impressive as it gets : Chanel will unveil its Cruise 2024 in Los Angeles, Gucci is heading to Seoul in South Korea, Louis Vuitton has chosen the Isola Bella Island and Fendi will show in Tuscany in June! Until then, we remain on the lookout to see how successful these collections will be and how these dreamy backdrops will hold up.

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Osama Chabbi is a French-Tunisian stylist, journalist and fashion commentator based in Dubai. Born and raised in France, he is a go-to source for all things fashion.