What future for cruise collections?

Sandra Krim

By Sandra Krim26 avril 2021

The current sanitary context as well as growing awareness of the fashion world’s impact on climate are questioning the paradigm of Cruise fashion shows for luxury brands. While some houses have chosen to abandon these shows, and even these collections altogether, what about the future of this economic and communication model?

A true celebration of the traditional arts of Puglia, the Dior 2021 Cruise collection highlighted the excellence of invaluable know-how. The house chose to broadcast it digitally. (Teresa Cioca)

At the eve of the second millennium, Karl Lagerfeld resuscitated the cruise dream with the first Chanel fashion show dedicated to his 2000/2001 Cruise Collection. With this impulse, great French Maisons, such as Dior or Louis Vuitton, quickly followed and institutionalized this trend outside of Fashion Weeks. This enabled them on one hand, to dazzle the Western clientele while stimulating consumption, as well as to answer the demand of Middle Eastern, Southeast Asian and Latin American clients, where climates are favorable to summer clothes during winter seasons in the northern hemisphere. The great Italian brands, Prada and Gucci, followed shortly after, recognizing the communication and business power of these Spring shows.

In 2017, Gucci held its cruise collection at Westminster Abbey in London (Gucci)

Before falling into disuse during the 1950s, Chanel was already the one to have invented, as of 1919, the concept of dedicated collections adapted to yachting as well as to Mediterranean cruises and to the warmth of the Riviera for its wealthy clients that spent their winters in the sun. During this uncertain year 2021, Chanel has announced its cruise show to be held in May at Baux-de-Provence. And last week, Dior announced that it would hold its Cruise 2022 show in Athens on June 17.

An ultra-powerful communication tool

While as of last year, Gucci abandoned the Cruise collections altogether for ethical reasons, Louis Vuitton and Prada have yet to communicate on the matter. Even though it is not likely that at least the French house will abandon its Cruise collection marketing, the question is raised as to how they will orchestrate their presentation in order to benefit from the significant media exposure they usually get during their spectacular shows in iconic and often foreign locations. For the medium term, beyond the uncertainty linked to the current pandemic, the question has turned towards the relevance of these collections that entail tremendous shows and logistics and that face growing critics as to environmental impact.

The Chanel 2021 cruise show was broadcast on June 8, 2020 on the internet in the form of a musical film (Julien Martinez Leclerc)

From festive Cuba for Chanel, to the mythical TWA Flight Center of the New York JFK airport for Louis Vuitton, to magical Marrakech for Dior or the majestic Westminster abbey for Gucci, luxury fashion houses have transformed these May shows into an ultra-powerful communication tool. With media resonance comparable to Haute Couture fashion shows, they enable brands to creatively regenerate, thanks to meaningful inspirations through travel or locations.

The 2020 Louis Vuitton Cruise Collection in the disused TWA Flight Center at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York (Louis Vuitton)

Significant profitability

Beyond communication, Cruise collections (also called resort or pre-Spring collections) also represent a significant financial aspect for luxury brands (as well as for the majority of luxury or premium fashion brands that have integrated the pre-collection model), as they are extremely profitable. Potentially in boutiques from November to May, they represent an important part of revenue, about 30% for Chanel according to an interview of Madame Figaro in 2020 with Bruno Pavlovsky, the president of the fashion activities of the brand. How to resist the many benefits in spite of climate awareness and increasing CSR commitments?

The solution will certainly be found in a change of model, an adaptation of format and of location, even if escaping and dreaming will remain core to Cruise collections.

The absence of current communication foresees strategic expectation of these brands to prioritize physical shows at the beginning of Summer.

Thus, if some houses have chosen to sacrifice Cruise collections to reduce the annual number of collections for sustainability, and follow their own seasons in order to optimize their shows’ media impact, it seems like the majority of luxury fashion brands, including Dior and Chanel, will continue to follow the official schedule while benefitting from visibility and profits of their Cruise collections, with shows that will increasingly take environmental consequences into account.

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