Chanel Steps Out of Its Comfort Zone With Rooftop Show in Marseille

“I like the mistral,” Virginie Viard said during a fitting the day before the Chanel cruise show in Marseille.

The designer was referring to the powerful wind that blows all the way from her birth city of Lyon to the Mediterranean coast, and has the reputation of driving people crazy.

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Viard probably got a little more bluster than she bargained for with the mini-storm that blew over the city on Thursday. Models where whipped with icy gusts of air on the damp rooftop of the Cité Radieuse, one of the flagship midcentury housing projects of architect Le Corbusier.

Guests including Charlotte Casiraghi, Phoebe Tonkin, Anamaria Vartolomei and Lily-Rose Depp, dressed in a floral embroidered miniskirt and black crop top, sheltered under clear plastic umbrellas until just before the show began.

“I don’t know if I was expecting so much wind and quite so much frostiness but, you know, I commit to the look,” Depp said with a smile.

Lile-Rose Depp at the Chanel Cruise 2025 Runway Show
Lile-Rose Depp at the Chanel cruise 2025 runway show.

The “Idol” star went viral with the “no pants” outfit she wore on a recent trip to Tokyo, and said this show was rife with off-duty options.

“I really like the idea of a one-piece bathing suit as an outfit, if you’re vacationing someplace warm enough,” she said. “There was a real life to every piece and a very cinematic element as well that I loved.”

Viard was clearly targeting a younger demographic with the lineup, which blended urban influences with tongue-in-cheek references to Provençal tropes, like the bag shaped like a bar of soap touted by Amelia Gray Hamlin.

The model wore her black tweed skirt suit with a diamanté medallion necklace spelling out the number 13, for the Marseille postcode. At the fitting, she peeled back her sleeve to show the number tattooed on her wrist, in honor of her June 13 birthdate.

Chanel Cruise 2025
Chanel Cruise 2025

White cotton and lace dresses looked like upscale versions of the antique nightgowns you can still find at local flea markets, but other looks had a more androgynous bent, with items like tweed board shorts, black surf shoes and terrycloth tunics with kangaroo pockets.

Viard said she was drawn to the idea of a seaside town with a dose of grit. Marseille, famed for its melting-pot population, football club and shoot-outs between rival drug gangs, delivers that in spades.

“I love its beauty and its energy,” she said. “I would not have done the show on a beach or in the rocky coves nearby. La Cité Radieuse felt just right.”

Built between 1947 and 1952, the vast edifice is not only a tourist attraction but a functioning residential building with 337 apartments, a school and a contemporary art center founded by designer Ora-Ïto, in addition to a micro-hotel, a restaurant and boutiques.

Chanel Cruise 2025
Chanel Cruise 2025

Its grid facade punctuated with primary colors inspired checked tweed suits that stopped well above the knee, while a grass green mandarin collar jacket came with large patch pockets that mirrored the turquoise tiles of the rooftop pool.

The Brutalist architecture proved a perfect foil for monochrome tweed looks and crochet jackets, neoprene swimsuits and sheer dresses in dense nautical prints, in a palette ranging from concrete to anthracite and jet black.

But the alternative bridal looks — think eyelet lace slips, an ivory jacket with short-shorts, or a wide honeycomb skirt with a matching mini cape — were just crying out for a crisp blue sky.

Viard worked with local dance collective (La)Horde and director Ladj Ly on the teaser film for the show.

Chanel staged several exhibitions for the occasion, including one by British photographer Jamie Hawkesworth, who shot a portfolio of images of the city and its residents drenched in golden light.

While it lacks the glamour of French Riviera resorts like Saint-Tropez or Antibes, on a clear day, Marseille with its fish market and open-air games of pétanque is all southern charm.

Charlotte Casiraghi at the Chanel Cruise 2024 Runway Show
Charlotte Casiraghi at the Chanel Cruise 2024 Runway Show

“It’s a city that’s all about the clash of cultures,” enthused Casiraghi, who spent part of her childhood in nearby Provence.

“It’s a very rich hub for all forms of artistic activity, and then there is its relationship with soccer, which is really key to the identity of Marseille. That’s what makes the charm of this city that is absolutely unique in the world,” said the Monaco royal, who’s been a Chanel brand ambassador since 2021.

“I’ve been to the Vélodrome [stadium] a few times to see OM play,” she added, referring to the Olympique de Marseille football club, which was scheduled to face off against Italian club Atalanta later that day in the first leg of the Europa League semifinals.

Bruno Pavlovsky, president of fashion and president of Chanel SAS, said the soccer game — taking place less than a mile from the show venue — added an extra wrench to what was already a complex event, but it also ensured the city’s energy levels were high. “It’s the real Marseille,” he said.

With its recent choices of show destinations, including Dakar, Manchester and now Marseille, the luxury brand is speaking to a new generation of luxury clients.

“There will always be destinations that have a link to the heritage of the house, but Chanel has entered a phase of development where it’s about more than that. The world today is broader,” Pavlovsky said.

“What we’re doing today is understanding the energy of the world, and that energy also comes from urban environments, from settings that are perhaps less bucolic or less spectacular, but just as filled with meaning, energy and values,” he added.

“The result is a Chanel that’s the same, but different. It’s the same because the codes of the house are unchanged, and it’s different because it takes a certain audacity, a certain courage to go to places that are a little unexpected,” he said.

Chanel Cruise 2025
Chanel Cruise 2025

While Chanel is a longtime partner of Maison Mode Méditerranée, an endowment fund that supports local fashion designers, until now Marseille has hosted shows by less-established brands like Jacquemus and Koché, which were both guests of its OpenMyMed festival.

In order to reach out to young people, Chanel has organized a free exhibition running from Friday until May 26 at the Museum of Civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean (Mucem) featuring the work of 16 artists in collaboration with several of the specialty workshops from Le19M, its hub for craftsmanship in Paris.

Luxury brands are seeking to broaden their customer base amid a global slowdown in spending among aspirational consumers, who are most heavily hit by inflation. Chanel, which is due to publish its annual results later this month, expects a normalization of growth rates after three years of post-pandemic euphoria, Pavlovsky said.

“We’re entering a weaker, less favorable cycle, but the brands that have good fundamentals should come out of it unscathed,” he said. “I’m certain we will continue to post growth this year. I remain super optimistic.”

The executive acknowledged that domestic spending in China was down, but noted this was due to Chinese nationals traveling again and spending more overseas. He said Chanel’s overall business with Chinese consumers continues to increase.

He declined to comment on the impact of successive price increases on sales of its handbags, and said it was too early to measure the effect of a splashy new advertising campaign featuring Brad Pitt and Penélope Cruz.

Pavlovsky also deflected a question about renewed speculation that Hedi Slimane would replace Viard as creative director of Chanel, amid his rumored exit from Celine. “Virginie seems in good shape, no?” he shot back.

The finale of the Chanel cruise 2025 collection.
The finale of the Chanel cruise 2025 collection.

Launch Gallery: Chanel Cruise 2024 Collection

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