The coronavirus pandemic was supposed to change the fashion industry. In spring 2020, with much of the world in lockdown, brands vowed to take a more sensible approach by forgoing countless runway shows and unnecessary travel . Destination shows, often held to present in-between-season collections in far-flung locations outside the usual fashion week calendar, were cited as likely casualties of this pandemic-induced shift. Fast forward to the spring of 2022 and it is clear that the fashion world has gone back to its old ways. But is that really a bad thing? Luxury fashion, after all, is meant to be experienced in real life, not on a soulless screen. Digital tools have been incredibly effective in helping brands share their vision with customers and the media, but after two years glued to laptops and phones – even longer for those in Asia owing to never-ending travel bans – it is time to celebrate fashion IRL. In the first two weeks of May alone, Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Gucci held shows in Monaco, the US city of San Diego and the Italian region of Puglia, respectively. I had the privilege of attending all three, which was a bit of a – much-needed, if I may say so – shock to the senses after more than two years stuck in Hong Kong, where some social distancing measures are still in place. In the past, I had been wary of attending destination shows, given the quid pro quo between brands and the media when it comes to coverage of these lavish trips. This time, I embraced the cruise circuit (or cruise circus, as some call it) wholeheartedly. Chanel started things the classy way, as is typical of the French couture label, with a lovely outing on a private beach in Monaco , the wealthy city state nestled between France and Italy. Members of Monaco’s royal family rubbed shoulders with A-listers such as US actress Kristen Stewart and took in a lovely show that paid homage to Chanel’s long-standing history in the principality – founder Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel was selling her wares there as far back as 1913 – as well as its grand prix and resort vibe. From the beginning of the pandemic, Chanel’s president of fashion, Bruno Pavlovsky, always made it clear that the brand was not going to stop holding its famously grand shows in Paris and around the world any time soon. “These shows are very important moments for Chanel but also for everyone involved, all the workers involved,” said Pavlovsky in an interview before the Monaco show. “Creativity is at the heart of what we do and you can’t have that without a collection and a show. “It’s very important for us to be consistent and keep the same vision. It’s at the heart of the brand to be able to deliver on this element of creativity.” Californian surf town San Diego may seem like an odd choice for a fashion show by Louis Vuitton, the maker of luxury leather goods coveted around the world. Nicolas Ghesquière, the brand’s artistic director of women’s collections, however, is an avowed architecture fan. The locations of his destination shows are always landmarks that provide stunning backdrops to his creations. This time the Louis Vuitton caravan made a stop at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, which was built in the 1960s and designed by renowned architect Louis Kahn. The brutalist structure, which offers sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean, provided plenty of photo ops for guests admiring the incredible sunset views – among them Crazy Rich Asians ’ Gemma Chan, Bridgerton ’s Phoebe Dynevor, Euphoria ’s Maude Apatow and Olympic skiing champion Eileen Gu, who also walked in the show. “Spectacular” was the word on everyone’s lips after the models, including double amputee Lauren Wasser, walked among the reflecting pools of the concrete building. Science, nature and art came seamlessly together in a collection that paid homage to the shimmering California sun and its effect on light-reflective materials such as jacquard, silk, leather and tweed. Befitting the often esoteric but always fascinating tendencies of creative director Alessandro Michele, Gucci chose a very remote spot for its latest show : Castel del Monte, in Puglia, southern Italy. The medieval castle, which dates back to the 13th century, is an amalgam of elements from northern Europe, the Islamic world and classical antiquity, reflecting the magpie sensibility of Michele, whose work often incorporates contrasting influences that somehow manage to work together. Featuring a gargantuan 101 looks, the show was a more restrained version of the “acid trips” Michele has delighted us with since he took the Gucci reins in 2014. Techno tunes juxtaposed with classical music provided the appropriate soundtrack for a collection that featured disparate pieces such as lavishly embellished denim separates, regal velvet gowns with voluminous capes and shimmering dresses that made the wearer truly shine. The designer recreated a firmament of stars and constellations on the walls of the ancient structure but the clothes were rooted in modern life. You could picture front-row guests Dakota Johnson, Elle Fanning and Paul Mescal rocking the ensembles on a night out in Los Angeles or London. These were definitely clothes to have fun in and not meant for the work-from-home reality many of us have become accustomed to. “It was so romantic and beautiful and the music was gorgeous,” said Fanning after the show. “The clothes were so stunning. Alessandro is a creative genius and as an actor, I find that he really creates characters. Each model has their own personality.” Mescal called the event the “craziest experience I’ve ever had at a fashion show”, adding: “Alessandro’s beautiful clothes so gorgeously matched the backdrop. It was such a theatrical experience; the theatre kid in me was like, wow.” Ultimately, as Pavlovsky pointed out, these events represent a vital part of the fashion system and plenty of people – from contracted employees to the artisans making these collections possible – rely on them for a living. Sustainable and responsible consumption is important but so is the opportunity to come together and celebrate beauty as this is at the heart of the luxury industry. Stay tuned for more far-flung dispatches from the Balenciaga show in New York, which took place last week , and the upcoming Dior cruise show in Spain.