“What will Karl do this time?” It’s always on people’s minds as they make their way through the entrance to one of his fashion extravaganzas. The extraordinary scene typically starts to unfold the moment you walk up the steps to the Grand Palais.
The scene for this year’s Cruise 2018/19 is no different. There are gaggles of excited selfie-taking guests showing their affection for the brand by wearing head-to-toe ensembles.
I see the makings of a cruise liner as I walk through the doors, but before I enter, I gently place my Gabrielle tote inside the scanning machine. The woman behind me remarks, “It’s like a vending machine for gorgeous bags!”
Next, I head into the fantasy-inducing scene, where everyone’s cameras are now suddenly focused on the gigantic luxury passenger ship that has been built for the occasion. It’s been christened La Pausa after the name of the home Chanel built in 1929 in the south of France.
“This is insane,” says Phoebe Tonkin when we chat after the show. “This is like a movie set. Every time I go to a Chanel show, they manage to one-up themselves. This is as amazing as it gets.”
The collection—a parade of sailor pants, stripes and free-flowing shark-tooth-patterned dresses—has a definite ’80s ethos with its cropped jackets, curvaceous shoulders and cinched-in waists. But the sea-inspired looks also echo the original intent of the line that Coco launched in 1919. At the time she was designing clothing for the Mediterranean-sailing beau monde who required wardrobes that suited their posh yet stylishly relaxed yachting lifestyle.
I ask Tonkin where she would go if she were on a jet-set getaway. “I’m leading that life a little bit now, being in Paris,” laughs the Australian-born actress. “But I think I would go to a secluded island where I could read, drink margaritas and sunbathe.” Tonkin says she’d bring along any of the minidresses in the collection. “I love everything short!” she laughs. “And I also love the berets, especially when they’re paired with a seasonally inappropriate outfit, like a T-shirt and jeans.”
Caroline de Maigret is another front-row regular at the Chanel shows. The model/music producer is the co-author of “How to Be a Parisian Wherever You Are” and she’s known for perfecting that mythical French je ne sais quoi style. At first I don’t recognize her when we are introduced because her signature perfectly tousled French hair is pulled into a perfectly messy updo. She’s also wearing a long, form-fitting dress from the Fall collection—as opposed to the more boyish understated jeans and Chanel jacket she usually wears.
If you think years of front-row access has left her feeling a little nonchalant about attending one of Karl’s fashion shows, you’d be wrong. “Wow, when I entered the space tonight, it’s not even like you can say ‘Karl did it again,’” she says. “He did it even crazier and more genius than ever! It’s what fashion should be. It’s about making us dream; it’s about glamour and fun.”
I ask de Maigret to describe her dream jet-set life. “My life is that way!” she laughs. “I travel all the time to the most exquisite places. When I’m there, I meet people who know all the secret little spots and they take me there. I also love to be by the sea. Most recently I was in Hong Kong. I had never seen the beach area, but a friend of mine has a place there and it was so beautiful and so cool.”
And what will this jet-set style icon be packing on her next adventure? “The first look in the show—the one with the black-and-white striped trousers,” she says. “They were amazing. I also loved all the prints with the shark teeth and the flowy dresses. I thought they were very chic yet easygoing.”
De Maigret, who is an ambassador for the brand, says she’s always inspired by what she calls a “pack” the house has with the women who wear Chanel. “You know you will always be elegant,” she explains. “You will always be graceful—that’s quite rare nowadays, so I cherish it. I also find that it’s a classic house yet at the same time you’re never like the others. There’s always something a little bit more intellectual in the pieces you’re wearing. There’s always something that pushes the outfit a bit further than just a regular black dress or a regular white shirt.”
She’s also inspired by Coco and the life she led. “She was kinda punk in her time,” says de Maigret. “It was quite special for a woman to do whatever she wanted whenever she wanted. She wasn’t from high society, yet she made it the way she wanted to. I like adventurous people like that. I think that’s the only way for me to live my life. I always want to have fun and do new things.”
Now it’s time to board the passenger liner and party. “Have you been inside yet?” asks de Maigret. “It’s a boat with a concert hall, sofas and bars. It’s remarkable!” She then gracefully makes her way up the gangplank and disappears through the door to join Captain Karl at his table in the centre of a white ballroom under a starry clear sky.