It only takes a 2 hour flight from London to discover Marseille and its buzzy energy. Home to one of the most in-demand dance troupes (La Horde) to the DSM of South of France (Jogging), France's second largest city has an energy at the opposite spectrum to Paris' shrug-of-the-shoulders-insousiance. And despite its naturally sunny disposition, the fashion world descended to find la ville grey, rainy and windy on the 2nd of May for the Chanel Cruise show, perhaps fitting given Creative Director Virginie Viard’s ode to the spirit of Marseille, rather than the blinding sun and shadows it usually casts.

For this was a collection that encapsulates the city’s essence of freedom, movement, and boundless energy. Set against the backdrop of Le Corbusier's first ever public commission, Cité radieuse, an amazing bauhaus building that spawned an architectural era, Chanel gave its audience unprecedented access to its insides.  Unite d'habitation stands as a pioneering icon in modern architecture, revolutionizing urban living. Completed in 1952, it introduced the concept of "vertical garden cities," fostering community within a dense urban environment. Its modular design prioritised functionality and efficiency, incorporating innovative features like rooftop gardens and internal streets that housed small boutiques, supermarkets and cafes - all today still the case (minus the supermarket!). Emphasizing sunlight and ventilation, it aimed to enhance residents' quality of life. Its influence extended globally, shaping the development of high-rise housing and urban planning. 

Within the building, Chanel created a radio station, livestreaming roundtable discussions on creativity, Marseille's artistic class and music (still available on Youtube to watch the replay!) while outdoor, on the rooftop, the audience sat for a Cruise collection that unfolded like a deep-sea adventure, with swimsuits, diving hoods, flip flops and glittering embroideries adorning iconic  tweeds, much of it evoking the playful allure of underwater exploration. Maison Lesage embroideries of whimsical fish, fishing nets, and shells dance across the garments, infusing them with a sense of aquatic fantasy.  Neoprene-like jerseys and sequinned jackets will capture the sun’s reflections, while grid motifs and geometric shapes paid homage to Marseille's architectural marvels as well as the rooftop pool tiles.

Virginie’s mastery lies in her ability to infuse classic Chanel DNA with a contemporary twist. Sweatshirts are reimagined in fish-printed chiffon, while Bermuda shorts and oversized jackets will give its wearer easy movement and a sense of nonchalence. We predict those terry towelling flip-flops with platform soles will be a sell-out, if this Spring collection's flat flip-flop version sell-out is any indication.

We loved the smooth, black patent high-vamp flats (very 17th century Dutch boy footwear), as well as the last section of white dresses, with crochet, lace, broderie anglaise and the last look, a chic column sheath with affixed floral adornments worthy of their own story given the amount of handwork and craftsmanship that surely went into their making. 

At its core, Virginie’s vision is a celebration of Marseille’s emotional allure and infectious energy. Supporting her is Chanel's ever-increasing commitment, as seen in the last few Cruise and Metiers d'art shows, to its city of choice where it shows, consistently creating authentic links with deep programming and commissioning of local artists, creatives and schools. Similar to programmes in Dhakar and Manchester, now in Marseille, for the next few weeks, citizens of the city can visit the pop-up 19M Galerie exhibition of commissioned artworks that either play on Marseille's materials or its inspiring landscapes. One artwork we loved was a hammock made out of woven and crocheted offcuts supplied by Maison Montex by Marseille-based, Venezualan born artist Andrea Moreno, a wonderful  nod to the same collaborative efforts that Chanel pull together with mighty force when it comes to delivering a spectacular Cruise show collection and experience.  


Visit the 19M Galerie Marseille pop-up exhibition and workshops

All images courtesy of CHANEL, with photography by Jamie Hawkesworth