Observations have been suggested that star clusters could form from the rapid collapse and violent relaxation of substructured distributions. We investigate the collapse of fractal stellar distributions in no, weak, and very strong tidal fields. We find that the rapid collapse of substructure into spherical clusters happens quickly with no or a weak tidal field, but very strong tidal fields prevent a cluster forming. However, we also find that dense Plummer spheres are also rapidly destroyed in strong tidal fields. We suggest that this is why the low-mass star clusters cannot survive near the galactic centre which has strong tidal field.