From New York To Rome: The Most Unforgettable Locations Where Luxury Fashion Houses Held Their Cruise 2020 Collections
With Louis Vuitton selecting the newly opened TWA Hotel at New York’s JFK Airport, Alessandro Michele of Gucci indulging his love of the ancient in Rome, and Virginie Viard channelling the late Karl Lagerfeld at the beginning of her new journey with Chanel at a French train station, designers have chosen some of the most inspiring and memorable locations to showcase their Cruise 2020 collections.
Louis Vuitton Cruise shows have a well‑established trope: they are always held in jaw‑dropping examples of modernist architecture in various destinations across the world. Niemeyer’s Niterói Museum in Brazil? Tick. Lautner’s Bob Hope home in California? Tick.
When Louis Vuitton announced that its sixth Cruise show would be held in New York at the recently restored TWA Flight Centre, there was anticipation that the house would deliver an easy, 1960s-tinged affair. After all, why hold the show in architect Eero Saarinen’s gently arcing winged masterpiece of modernity if you aren’t going to riff on the optimistic naivety of the jet age?
But on the night, there wasn’t a funky orange jumpsuit in sight. Instead, the mood was far more serious, with looks and choreography that were in stark contrast to the groovy, curved walkways.
Celebrities, VIP clients and the LVMH top brass, including Bernard Arnault himself, looked on intently as the models began to emerge from multiple corridors. Some donned capes evoking Amelia Earhart (or even Ming the Merciless from vintage sci-fi Flash Gordon), while others were anime-like, with dramatic, exaggerated silhouettes and big boots. One was completely boyish in her dark suit and quiff. All were wearing clothes that were clearly expensive—embroidered, brocaded, bejewelled (to the point where one fashion editor quipped semi-jokingly that the collection might be too pricey to actually produce). As often is the case with creative director Nicolas Ghesquière’s models, they looked as if they had strutted into our world from the future.
The soundtrack began innocently enough, with an English woman’s voice announcing meteorological information like some decades-old BBC transmission, but this soon gave way to menacing swooshes, as if engines were flying just above our heads. Operatic voices and discordant glitches created sonic tension. Was this some coded reference to climate change?
As the models criss-crossed the venue, which was adorned with generous vegetation, they stomped with a ferocity that was at odds with the soothing philodendra and calming ferns, but in line with the crackles and crunches coming through the speakers.
Not until the final minutes did the soundscape give way to a soulful vocal loop, the musical equivalent of clouds parting and the sun coming out. It was a moment of release and relief that, once again, established Louis Vuitton and Ghesquière as the pre‑eminent creators of Cruise show experiences.
Later at the after-party, held in Brooklyn’s PS1 art museum and featuring LV staple Mark Ronson on the turntables, the mood was celebratory. Guests danced to Ronson’s eclectic and deftly mixed selection.
But others couldn’t forget the power of the show that had taken place just an hour or so earlier. The legendary Grace Coddington, herself sporting her collaborative Louis Vuitton pyjama set, responded to the comment that Ghesquière was “one of the best” designers working today. “He is the best,” she retorted.
Chloé debuted its Cruise 2020 collection away from its Parisian roots, with Natacha Ramsay-Levi opting for Shanghai, which inspired the collection when she visited earlier in the year. The models walked the roof of the Long Museum against a backdrop of the West Bund.
Ramsay-Levi has focused her fascination with China on wuxia films. Drawn to their strong female leads, she created heroines of her own dressed in confidently cool ensembles that fuse workwear with feminine flair. There were subtle references to China’s traditional qipao in the high-neck, button-up dresses, floral embroidery and watercolour prints of rolling hills and lakes. The house silhouettes, such as structured jackets, sweeping skirts and blouses with scarf necklines and lace trims, were also prominent in the collection.
It was in the halls of Rome’s oldest museum, the Capitoline, amid ancient art, marble statues and busts of ancient gods, that Alessandro Michele, long fascinated by the old world, showcased his Cruise 2020 collection for Gucci. The men’s and women’s collections were shown together, and Michele paid tribute to ancient Roman attire by topping tailoring with toga-like draping and presenting column‑shaped silk dresses that swept the floor.
Graphics were nostalgic and purposeful. One of Michele’s favourite characters, Mickey Mouse, a feature across several seasons, made a heartwarming return on cropped T-shirts and leather goods. Commissioned by Michele, Roman artist MP5 created a logo that turned heads, fusing the label’s interlocking Gs and the Chime for Change graphic. Brocade suit jackets emblazoned with the words “My Body, My Choice” made a bold pro-choice statement, while silk dresses were embroidered with female reproductive organs accented with flowers, testament to Michele’s unwavering support for freedom, equality and self-expression.
It seemed appropriate that Virginie Viard’s debut collection for the house of Chanel was a Cruise line. It was, after all, Coco Chanel who introduced the mid-season collection in 1919, when she noticed her wealthy clients were holidaying in warm climates and needed suitable wardrobes.
Following in the footsteps of legendary designer Karl Lagerfeld, Viard had tough shoes to fill, and at a house with a rich heritage dating all the way back to 1910. Viard followed the lead of the late Lagerfeld—known for his transformative and detailed sets in the Grand Palais—and created a large-scale Parisian train station in which to showcase her creations.
The collection still felt very much like Lagerfeld’s Chanel, showing the powerful influence the designer had on Viard, who spent more than two decades working alongside him. However, while Lagerfeld’s creations were often whimsical and would touch on pop culture—remember the chain-link supermarket basket of FW14, and the mini handbags worn at the ankle from SS08, a nod to Lindsay Lohan’s ankle monitor after the starlet was arrested for drink-driving—Viard took a more pragmatic and sensible approach, often incorporating thoughtful details for women.
There was an emphasis on feminine workwear. Jackets and coats with utility pockets were worn over ruffled shirts and belted with bows, and further matched with wide-legged trousers. Heels and boots came in two colours (arguably a house signature), and were kept at manageable ankle and below-the-knee heights, while classic double-C cuffs and drop earrings complemented most looks. Bags were functional rather than decorative. Daytime duffle bags, waist bags and shoulder bags came in an assortment of bright, fun hues. Viard was clearly not afraid to play with colour and there were plenty of playful, candy‑coloured herringbone jackets. The Chanel four-pocket jackets were amped up to include eight pockets, four on each side, and rhinestone logo leggings finished off the looks.
While utilitarian outfits dominated the first half of the show, there were airy, dainty looks as well: pastel tweed jackets were worn over cropped tops with oversized bows, while lightweight knits in contrasting metallic stripes were paired with crisp white Bermuda shorts. Viard also paid tribute to her predecessor with the last few looks: floor-length evening dresses with Lagerfeld-worthy high-neck shirt collars. Arguably more understated, but still with an unwavering sense of timeless elegance, Viard’s new direction for Chanel is as easy to love as the pieces are to wear.