x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Could cruisewear be the answer to a fashion dilemma?

Cruisewear provides options concerning how far you dare go in terms of rocking a new trend that is about to, but hasn't yet, hit mainstream.

The poet Oscar Wilde once said: "Nothing is so dangerous as being too modern; one is apt to grow old-fashioned quite suddenly." How true. Too often I open my bulging wardrobe, consistently being updated with the very latest gear, I might add, only to find I've simply nothing to wear.

I blame ready-to-wear collections. Twice a year these arrive on the fashion scene like a tornado blowing in the winds of change. In comes a new set of rules, colours and fads. Out goes everything I've spent six months trying to get my head around.

To ignore it would be professionally fatal. But embracing it doesn't always provide the instant gratification it should. Any customer brave enough to become a living fashion barometer must be prepared to face ridicule.

Is it any wonder there's a growing backlash to this relentless fast-fashion habit, that runs so contrary to the raging eco vibe.

"I only wear last season's clothes!" said the master of tongue-in-cheek wisdom, Karl Lagerfeld, recently.

"Real fashion insiders hate clothes when they are hot," (presumably meaning crucially trendy?) the eminent fashion writer Sarah Mower has written.

While I am not quite the fashion nut who embraces trends maniacally, I am shocked at how easily I find myself swayed. There is something about new-season trends that makes you hanker after what you thought you hated - albeit eventually. The late Alexander McQueen was particularly adept at inspiring this, while Dries Van Noten's, Lanvin's and Miuccia Prada's extraordinary colour and fabric choices - which initially seem yucky but all too soon become sublime - are another case in point.

It's pointless blaming Lagerfeld or his peers for constantly changing their minds about what is fashionable. Taste is dynamic. Fashion is a reflection of what is going on "out there" and surely a designer's purpose is to interpret his or her findings into clothes, wearable or not?

It's a different case, however, with pre-collections; the twice-yearly ranges slipped in between the big seasons to act as palate cleansers. Cruise, resort wear or pre-spring as it's known, is just arriving in store now and not a day too soon.

Once seen as a "poor relation" to trend-heavy autumn/winter or spring/summer ranges, pre-collections are steadily growing in importance, popularity and relevance.

Many department store buyers confide they now spend more than 60 per cent on pre-collections, that give a gentle taster of trends to come (which many women feel is as far as they want to go). One insider explained them to me thus: "Ready-to-wear plonks you in a foreign destination without a guidebook. Cruisewear takes you on a first-class ride and gives you a window seat."

Cruisewear provides options concerning how far you dare go in terms of rocking a new trend that is about to, but hasn't yet, hit mainstream. Mr Wilde might approve of that, I'd wager.

"Cruise collections are great because they are often more wearable and accessible than mainline collections," says Salama Alabbar, the founder and director of Symphony Style LLC, which owns and operates Temperley London, Marami and Symphony stores at the Dubai Mall. "They also have a better price point."

Is it mere coincidence that those brands putting energies into pre-collections happen to be exactly the same ones currently top of their league? Symphony, for instance, stocks Willow, Ports 1961 (Michelle Obama is wearing this), Chris Benz, Jason Wu, Jonathan Saunders, Rupert Sanderson and Thakoon.

"We were attracted to the feminine, carefree aesthetic of cruise ranges which fit our store concept," said Alabbar, who reckons pieces like the sarong shorts from Willow, Jonathan Saunders floral-printed dresses and Rupert Sanderson's fuchsia pink satin "Delta" stilettos, are currently on every fashionista's "wish list".

Alabbar also points out that cruise hits a particular chord with Middle Eastern customers because it is well-suited to the UAE climate. "It can be hard to heavily buy into the furs and leather etc that autumn/winter often presents us with. Without cruise, the Middle Eastern customer would have to wait a lot longer to get summery pieces."

"Cruisewear is a focused, tightly edited collection that is designed to fill a gap pre-spring when everyone has grown tired of special occasionwear but are not quite ready to leap into overly summery clothes," said Tony Alcindor, the vice president of marketing for Ports 1961, which will launch a pre-collection for autumn/winter in 2011 as a result of customer demand.

Could cruisewear, with its winning formula of being not "too modern", be what wardrobes are waiting for?