If the ghostly march of a thousand fashion soldiers was Karl Lagerfeld's idea to launch Chanel's 2013 cruise collection, then he found the perfect spot in Singapore to achieve it. The location was Loewen Cluster, a disused military barrack just minutes from the ultra sophisticated skyscrapers of downtown Singapore.
The old black and white buildings were reconstructed more than 6 months ago to transform them into long white-washed galleries, shuttered from the tropical sun with black and white chick blinds. It regained much of its former colonial glory with a good scrub and polish yet left enough of its past in the peeling painted walls and rickety wooden ceilings. It's this romantic charm and imperfection that Lagerfeld loves which new things don't always have - plus it sets the mood.
The result was perfect - the background was set for Lagerfeld to march Chanel's fashion army down the runway on the 9th May 2013.
The Cruise season calls for balmy weather, and Lagerfeld hit the nail on the head with Singapore - with its tropical temperatures and steep colonial past. The setting and locale couldn't be more perfect.
Previously, Chanel's Cruise collections have been shown in St Tropez, Cap d’Antibes and Versailles in France. This was to be Chanel's inaugural worldwide Cruise debut in Singapore – a place that has more high temperatures than low, said Bruno Pavlovsky, Chanel's president, and where the climate remains warm from October to June when the collection is available for retail.
Coincidentally, this collection marks 100-years of Coco Chanel’s foray into fashion with her boutique in Deauville, France, in 1913. Mixing colonial style with Parisian Riviera chic, Lagerfeld sent out over 80 looks of startling contrasts - wide palazzo trousers and then some skinny pencil skirts. Long cardigans and sailor striped tunics were given a jolt a few looks later with short jackets and mini crochet dresses. Denim was mixed in elegantly as were cricket player ensembles of two-tone v-neck sweaters, crisp shirts, a tie and a Singapore cricket bat and shin pads. All the better to knock you out for six .
Lovers of Chanel’s signature diaphanous clothes were not disappointed with pencil dresses defined by black lacquered straw and heavily embroidered dresses by Lesage with blue sequins and strings of pearls. Other Chanel signatures include languid satin dresses and of course, the House tweed – knitted this time in beige and navy with an open weave that perfectly suits tropical evenings. Delicate black lace was backed in cotton poplin and layered with crisp white trousers for both men and women in case you wanted to do a his and hers.
And what’s a Chanel show without a sprinkling of magical stardust? This came in the form of Chanel ambassadors Zhou Xun, Anna Mouglalis, Astrid Berges-Frisbey, actresses Dakota Fanning, Rinko Kikuchi and Singapore’s small screen darlings, Zoe Tay and Fann Wong. On the runway, the supermodel delights of Stella Tennant, Joan Smalls, Cara Delevingne and all of China’s tops including Xiao Wen Ju, He Sui and Ming Xi did their catwalk turn for a delighted international audience.
Cruise is an important season for the French house and especially so this year with the celebration of 100 years of Chanel fashion as initially realised by Madame Coco Chanel herself in 1913.
So, isn’t it fitting that Mr Lagerfeld commemorated this occasion with a film about Coco Chanel? Shown the night before on the manicured lawns of the Raffles Hotel, a large movie screen played the 15-minute movie under starry skies, all washed down with that classic of cocktails - the Singapore Sling.
Set in 1913, with Keira Knightley as Coco Chanel and a bevy of beauties as customers and naysayers, the satirical film takes a light hearted view of fashion with all its frivolities. It is shot in black and white and beautifully accessorized in Chanel, of course.
Earlier, at the accessoirisation session at Raffles Hotel, Karl Lagerfeld executed his final defining touches to the outfits that were to be showcased at this global event.
Rows and rows of rhodium link bracelets and necklaces added that touch of modernity and punk (so appropriate given that the night before, the much awaited New York Met Museum’s theme party was "Punk –from chaos to couture”).
Under Lagerfeld’s hand, atypical Deco dresses and trousers became utterly modern just with a swagger and a hand in the pocket. “Put your hand in your pocket and walk like this” said Lagerfeld to catwalk darling Saskia De Brauw. In her white vest and trousers and man-style tweed jacket, she defined cool with one hand clutching her white bag on her right and her left tucked neatly into her trouser. It’s all about a swagger – and if we learned anything from Lagerfeld’s trip to this little Red Dot, it was this: the right attitude can turn a simple dress into something utterly modern and desirable.
Kenneth Goh, Creative Director, Harper's Bazaar Singapore
Photo by Olivier Saillant