CAP D'ANTIBES, France – Two days before the Cannes Film Festival opens, the glamour got pumping Monday on the French Riviera at Chanel's 2011-12 Cruise show — worthy of a screen siren from Hollywood's golden age.
Would-be Marlene Dietrichts sauntered the catwalk in bias-cut gowns of ivory silk that twinkled at the neckline with oversized pearls, their sultry gaits reflecting the very easygoing getaway chic that the Cruise line is meant to embody.
"It's about dressing down these very sumptuous looks, about easy elegance," the label's uber-designer, Karl Lagerfeld, told The Associated Press in a post-show interview.
The normally frenetic crowd of fashion insiders — many of whom had traveled halfway across the world for the event — toned it down a notch, taking it all in with decidedly blase summer nonchalance from deck chairs and umbrella-topped tables.
For a crowd used to sprinting from venue to venue for the frenetic collections, Monday's leisurely show — which began about an hour late — was a welcome change of pace.
During the wait, a select few of the global fashion elite sipped Champagne and nibbled on almonds as the setting sun bathed the crowd — most of them decked out in black and white Chanel — in a ravishing golden light.
Models strutted the catwalk in lean pencil skirt suits with bedazzled buttons and long, pleated dresses in creamy silk that looked like they were channeling the flippy tennis skirts of the 1940s.
You could imagine one of the hot young things lounging in her deck chair — like Hollywood A-lister and Chanel muse Blake Lively or up-and-coming French actress Clemence Poesy — borrowing one of the long, lean pearl-embellished gowns for a jaunt down the red carpet at Cannes.
The footwear — knee-high boots that looked as if they'd mated with a pair of flip flops — looked like they might prove a harder sell, although with Chanel you never know. It seems that anything the house deems fit to serve up inevitably flies off the rack.
As Lively, wearing a black sequin-covered blazer and thigh-grazing skirt, waited for an audience with Lagerfeld, she snapped photos of sun setting over the Mediterranean. A tight crowd formed about the "Gossip Girl" star, snapping incessant photos of her.
"This is about the women of Cannes, women who mix bathing suits with real pearls and diamonds," Lagerfeld said. "After all, you can't wear fakes into the water."