Elegant and Playful. These two words are embodied no better than the town of Biarritz. The diamond in the crown of the French Pyrénées-Atlantique, the seaside heart of the French Basque Country. Since the mid-19th century Biarritz has been typified by the elegance of its residents and visitors, as well as the playfulness with which they explore, enjoy and use its natural beauty.
The words on the coat of arms of the city are ‘Aura, Sidus, Mare, Adjuvant Me’. ‘The air, the stars and the sea are helping me’. True of the whalers who were the heart of the towns industry until the 18th century, true of the glamorous visitors of the Belle Epoque at the turn of the 20th century and true of anyone seeking mental and physical wellbeing to this day.
Biarritz was a maritime industrial town until the middle of the 19th century when the burgeoning middle class of France, and indeed Europe, began to find themselves with more free time and more income to spend on their leisure. Empress Eugenie, the wife of Napoleon III had put Biarritz on the map in 1854 when she built a palace right on the beach. That palace became the Hôtel du Palais as the Belle Epoque transformed the city, but she had marked Biarritz out as a destination for good times by the coast. From the moment the first wave of European royalty and industrial wealth arrived, the sense of active relaxation never left. First came the beautiful salt baths, followed by grandiose Monte-Carlo-esque casinos and hotels with surfers taking the baton in the latter half of the 20th century, taking advantage of some of the best waves this side of the Atlantic.
The city was graced by the very highest echelons of international society, from Victorian royalty to Hollywood stars. Unlike many coastal resorts, Biarritz has never lost that air of sophistication. Swap out the old Biarritz Bonheur department store of the early 20th century for bars, restaurants and 21st century shops, it’s still got it.
“I first visited Biarritz in the summer of 1996, it was one of those transient bike race visits, only a few hours, yet I fell in love with the town there and then. I didn’t move there until 18 months later, after a brief sojourn in Nice. I’d considered living in Toulouse, in the end I just kept driving my car stuffed with belongings straight to Biarritz instead. It was a whim, I’d hadn’t been back since that brief first visit, yet it felt like I was coming home. Over the seven years I lived there I became a local boy, the town took me under their wing, I thought I’d live there forever. I loved the juxtaposition between Parisian chic and endless summer surf culture, you could sit on the Grand Plage having a coffee and watch a wonderfully attired French lady with her bespoke Hermes handbag walk by next to a long-haired shoeless surfer with his board under his arm. There’s nowhere else like it in the world, it’s that mix of elegance and play that inspired us to be different with this collection.” David Millar
Biarritz is a collection of performance apparel inspired by high fashion, much as high fashion was inspired by the city of Biarritz. It is in some ways a very elegant circle. At the height of Biarritz’s Belle Epoque heyday, the rich and famous flocked to the clean, crisp air of the Basque coast. They built their casinos, palaces and villas. They also had a desire to look the part. The mix of wealth and leisure led to people cutting loose from the slightly up tight social norms of the cities. People came to the coast to relax, enjoy themselves and embrace nature. Biarritz became a standard bearer for changing international fashions. Streamlined silhouettes, ankles revealed by short dresses and skirts, simple garments with clean lines and softer materials. Embracing the outdoors and everything that went with it in Biarritz liberalised fashion and radically altered aesthetics for the rest of the century.
Biarrots, as the locals are called, and the tourists that have flocked to the city have always been active people, how could they not be? Situated as they are next to the Bay of Biscay. The city is now best known for its surfing, though that only began in 1957 after allegedly being the first place in Europe anyone brought a surfboard. The Californian friend of a director shooting in Biarritz brought along his longboard and kicked off European surf culture, almost accidentally.
The CHPT3 Biarritz collection is a nod to the city’s design past and active present. That same ethos of simple, streamlined silhouettes with clean contrasting lines, using luxuriously soft materials is present here. The colours have been chosen accordingly. The Outer Space Navy Blue with cream accents not only harks back to that golden era of high fashion, but it also reminds us of the surf and sand on a glorious late summers evening, the Bay of Biscay lapping up against the beach with the evening starting to get underway behind. A bundle of energy waiting to unfold. Classy and relentless. Elegant and playful, always.