Chanel Presents a Nostalgic, Romanticized Image of Los Angeles for Cruise 2024

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It's easy, especially for an outsider, to romanticize a city like Los Angeles — or New York, or Paris, or Mumbai, or anywhere a luxury fashion house might stage a destination runway show. But locals know that the geographic highlight reels presented in film, television and social media are but one small part of the complex city they call home. Having lived in L.A. for six years, I'm not sure I can call myself a local yet; but I can recognize that romantic perspective — one that blissfully ignores complex realities — in others, including designers.

Of course, fashion shows are great opportunities for escape — especially Chanel ones. In tandem with the opening of a massive new boutique in Beverly Hills (its largest in the U.S.), the French luxury house billed its Cruise 2023/2024 show as "an ode to the City of Angels," sharing press materials that highlight founder Gabrielle Chanel's legacy of dressing movie stars on- and off-screen in the 1920s, as well as the house's modern-day ties to Hollywood: supporting events like the Tribeca Film Festival and projects involving its ambassadors, like Sofia Coppola, Kristen Stewart and Margot Robbie (including the latter's upcoming film, "Barbie").

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It was almost fitting that instead of one of L.A.'s naturally scenic landscapes or architectural landmarks, Chanel chose to stage the show on a set of its own creation behind the tall gates of Paramount Pictures Studios. Just outside, arriving guests were greeted by Writers Guild of America picketers pleading with them to post about their ongoing strike on social media and "talk about it inside."

Of course, inside, the conflicts of the real world world were quickly forgotten amid countless Hollywood stars, wealthy Chanel clients, glitzy photo opps, food trucks, cocktails and professional roller skaters. The runway, meanwhile, was set up like a football field, with guests seated on risers and branded scoreboards on either end. A massive screen played B-roll of L.A. scenery interspersed with videos of Alma Jodorowsky doing aerobics in Chanel.

The carnival-like scene was a fun, vaguely familiar amalgamation of disparate California-esque references — one that perhaps only an outsider could come up with. And they have: The laid-back, outdoor block-party vibe has been done by many a fashion brand when visiting L.A. We should be past the point of comparing Virginie Viard to her larger-than-life predecessor, but with this show taking place just days after the Karl Lagerfeld-themed Met Gala, it was hard not to wonder if the forward-thinking designer might have dreamt up something a bit more imaginative. (At his Cruise 2008 show in Santa Monica, the last time Chanel showed in L.A., models disembarked from an actual functioning aircraft.)

Nevertheless, it was a good time, and matched the festive energy of the Cruise collection itself. Viard references a nostalgic, optimistic image of L.A. — the surfers and peace-touting hippies of the '60s, the disco-dancing roller skaters of the '70s and the Jane Fonda-loving aerobics enthusiasts of the '80s, in particular. Exemplifying the latter, Anna Sewers and Vittoria Ceretti opened the show in black, leg-baring activewear accessorized with leg-warmers and what could arguably qualify as wedge sneakers, their voluminous, '80s-style blowouts bouncing around the Chanel "field" as they walked. In a cute touch, the scoreboard displayed each model and their name as they stepped onto the runway.

<p>Photo: Courtesy of Chanel</p>

Photo: Courtesy of Chanel

The collection grew more colorful and flashy as the show went on (this luxury is anything but quiet), featuring shades reminiscent of a beach sunset. Head-turners include tie-dye bucket hats; seafoam-green tracksuits; palm tree-printed, sequined jackets and jumpsuits; multicolored chiffon dresses and, perhaps in honor of Barbie herself sitting front row, an abundance of pink, seen on tweed mini skirts and jackets, shirt dresses, sandblasted jorts, sparkly jumpsuits and more.

The styling was casual and relaxed in the odd, off-kilter way Viard is becoming known for; perhaps this was also a nod to the "bad" taste with which many associate Angelenos. But the collection contains a number of objectively appealing items individually. (The short-shorts and aerobics pieces are simply adorable.) On the accessories front, a pair of iridescent ankle-strap wedges are sure to be a favorite of the fashion crowd. And the wedge sneakers? Unfortunately, those do seem to be due for a proper comeback.

Post-show, guests stuck around for food, drinks, a surprise Snoop Dogg performance and roller skating, the football field-runway also doubling (tripling?) as a rink. The whole situation felt more surreal and nonsensical as the evening went on. Outside, an endless line of black SUVs blocked traffic, waiting to escort guests back to reality.

See the full Chanel Cruise 2023/2024 collection below.

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