As the name suggests, cruise collections were originally released halfway through a season for a jet-setting clientele who might board a ship and needed to be suitably outfitted for the trip. It was Mademoiselle Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel herself who started this trend in 1919 when she noticed the travel habits of her well-heeled customers. She quickly ran up a collection of lightweight, easy-to-wear pieces suitable for a trip on a steamship, and the world’s first cruise collection came into being. The idea was to equip travellers who were vacationing in warmer climes with light spring or summer clothing that were more relaxed in nature than their everyday gear.
Bridging the twice-yearly spring and winter lines, cruise collections are occasionally referred to as resort, because the pieces are often worn during the December downtime period while on vacation. Our all-year round sunshine makes resort collections ideal for Malaysians to wear both on holiday and throughout the year, rendering these pieces smart choices for the discerning buyer. Indeed, as Malaysians return to somewhat normal day-to-day life, the post-pandemic work wardrobe is definitely more relaxed than before and allows for more stylistic freedom.
Versatility has always been a major consideration for local designer Leslie Variyan, who continually infuses his Variante ready-to-wear label with sophistication, elegance and glamour that, no matter what, works for the women he designs for. Using a combination of classic and versatile silhouettes with a modern edge, Variante is first stylish, then contemporary and diverse, taking a woman from home to work and then a night on the town. Born to a mother with impeccable taste in fashion, Variyan learnt the fundamentals of fashion early on in life — what sharp tailoring looks like, the impact of good construction and using clothes as a means to express a timeless sense of style.
His just-released resort collection exemplifies this spirit, and is imbued with a sense of optimism and lightness — perhaps, reflecting our collective joy of surviving the pandemic, and that the light at the end of the tunnel that is finally upon us.
Remaining positive in the last 18 months has not been easy for anyone, least of all those involved in fashion and retail, and Variyan is grateful for the chance to continue creating. But he is aware that not everyone was quite as fortunate.
“The pandemic and the numerous lockdowns we went through caused so much turmoil, fear, destruction, disparity and uncertainty as well as other things. As a designer, I was able to use my ‘free’ time to rediscover myself. I learnt a new skill and started expressing thoughts through painting. I was able to transport myself to a place of calmness and normalcy,” he shares. “But as a businessman, I had to think about my staff. I had to think about sustaining my business. I was questioning myself — what do I do, how do I do it, where do I start, and where am I heading? With these questions in my head, I chose to be optimistic. I chose to believe in goodness. I chose to be hopeful, and had renewed faith and confidence that the future would be bright again.”
Variante’s resort 2022 collection, which will be showcased on the last day of the ongoing KL Fashion Week, is inspired by what’s positively possible. With the opening of state borders and the prospect of travel, the collection aims to infuse joy and positivity with a focus on bright colours, vibrant prints and effortless silhouettes. Aptly photographed at cultural icon Datuk Ramli Ibrahim’s stunning resort-style residence, the collection features the brand’s signature floral prints transferred onto light and wrinkle-free fabric that travel well.
The colour palette is simultaneously playful and elegant, combining bold tones of burgundy, mango sorbet, jade green and forest moss. The silhouettes flow softly while retaining structure, making them suitable for any size and body shape. The collection’s elegant simplicity also means that each piece can be styled in many ways, allowing the individual wearer to apply their own creativity to the final look.
“We took our customer feedback into consideration when creating new looks, and besides making our outfits wudhu-friendly, [they] are modest, relaxed, stylish and modern,” says Variyan. “We design our outfits so that they can be worn as loungewear, casual wear or even glammed up for a business meeting or a dinner party.”
In establishing one’s post-pandemic wardrobe, comfort is a key consideration but the larger questions should be: Who are we now, and how are we dressing for our new selves? After being through so much and evaluating what’s most important in our lives, it is time we indulged in clothing that inspires a sense of optimism and joy. We certainly deserve it.
KL Fashion Week will run digitally and physically from Nov 1 to 7 at Pavilion KL. Click here for full schedule of events.
This article first apppeared on Nov 1, 2021 in The Edge Malaysia.