A ROCKY START

Roughly 30 hours before, it didn’t look so effortless. For everyone other than Lagerfeld, that is: Cruise, which arrives in stores this month, debuted in late May, when much of the world’s air travel was brought to a standstill thanks to an Icelandic volcano, the name of which no one could pronounce and which few will soon forgive. Planes carrying supermodels and journalists were maddeningly delayed, and pre-show preparations that are always a little frenzied were only more so.

Chanel had taken over the Pan Deï Palais, a chic boutique hotel named after an Indian princess, as its temporary workplace, and as Karolina Kurkova rushed past me, five hours late, into her fitting, Lagerfeld indeed resembled the calm amid a highly stylish storm. At his desk in this de facto studio, I reminded the man who has helmed Chanel for 27 years that if he could move icebergs—the house famously trucked in a 265-ton chunk of glacier from Sweden for its Fall/Winter collection in March—then surely a volcano didn’t present any concerns? “Yes, this is true,” Lagerfeld said, enjoying the memory. “We did do that. So why should I worry?”

FITTINGS AND FILM

Lagerfeld seems his happiest while working on Chanel Cruise, a collection usually taken out on the road (The Raleigh had been the locale of choice for the 2008–2009 collection). The destination for 2010–2011: St-Tropez and the high-wattage glam of the Riviera, where Brigitte Bardot once washed up on a beach and the world was never quite the same, and jet-setters discovered its azure waters and decided this was the place to enjoy their wealth en masse.

“St-Tropez is a romantic idea,” Lagerfeld acknowledged as Amanda Harlech draped ropes of pearl chains onto another just-arrived model. “This collection is all about St Tropez ease, that sort of casual elegance, but at the same time something modern.” On this night and the next, Chanel would encompass all those ideas and then some.

The day’s fittings over, Lagerfeld and company adjourned to Place des Lices, the nearby town square, and its Cinéma de la Renaissance for the premiere of Remember Now, the short film he wrote and directed to coincide with Cruise’s debut. Remember Nowshowcases the playful decadence of St-Tropez life, its central story revolving around an aging playboy (played by French actor Pascal Greggory) who is besotted with sun-kissed, Chanel-clad models enjoying a never-ending party. Those featured in the 17-minute film—Elisa Sednaoui, Kurkova, Heidi Mount and Baptiste Giabiconi among them—were on hand for the premiere, which segued into dinner and a friendly tournament of pétanque, Provence’s version of bocce ball.

ON WITH THE SHOW

As the sky grew dark and the lights began to twinkle over the Place des Lices, Chanel execs, journalists and celebs ranging from Vanessa Paradis to Diane Kruger engaged in this St-Tropez tradition, with the locals watching with fascination and amusement. But it was the following evening when the wit of Lagerfeld’s decisions revealed itself. The show’s location was Café Sénéquier, an iconic waterfront spot known equally for its superb view of the St-Tropez harbor and its tables and chairs in a brilliant, highly lacquered shade of red.

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