a ritz-y affair: chanel goes 30s with metiers d'art
Last night, Chanel took over the Ritz in Paris for a powerful Metiers d'Art show that seemed very close to home.
Calling 2016 an eventful year would be understating it. From terror attacks in France and Germany to Brexit, Donald Trump's rise to power in America, and the reactionary waves flowing through the West, it feels as if the world has changed radically over the past twelve months. Fashion's most astute commentator, Karl Lagerfeld wasn't going to miss the chance to reflect on it all in his last Chanel show of the year. Presented last night over dinner at the Ritz in Paris, his Metiers d'Art collection - Chanel's artisanal line - was an encompassing observation of the spirit of the times, seen through the historical binoculars of Chanel's own past.
In 1935, Coco Chanel moved into the Ritz, which reopened this year after extensive renovations, and stayed there permanently through the war while the Nazis occupied the hotel. It was a volatile period during which a desire for glamour fuelled by the bleakness of the Great Depression somehow went hand-in-hand with the fascist cloud covering Europe in a darkness that would eventually become World War II. The current political situation in Europe and America where right-wing politicians like Trump, Marine Le Pen and Nigel Farage are creating new movements has already been widely compared to the mood of the 30s, and in Tuesday's show Lagerfeld went to town on that point filling the Ritz, steeped in 30s' history, with garments evoking the conservative elegance of the era.
A lot of that fashion history belongs to Chanel: the Ritz' photo albums are rich in portraits of her posing by the fireplace in her suite or lounging on her balcony sporting the skirtsuits she invented. In so many ways, Lagerfeld was playing on home turf. Following the terror attacks in the city, Paris now finds itself in need of a boost to bring visitors back and restore a sense of comfort and safety, and few places embody the Parisian flair for glitz and glamour better than the Ritz. Lagerfeld made his show a fun and fabulous affair, instructing models including Cara Delevingne, Pharrell Williams and Lily Rose Depp to smile and flirt their way through the maze of dining tables that was their runway for the evening.
The show served as a powerful reflection on the times we live in, and a statement on Lagerfeld's part that we have a lot to learn from the past. It was the note fashion needed to end 2016 on, partly because this industry is so connected to Paris - the ultimate fashion capital of the world - but also because fashion, as the most obvious and instantaneous means of personal expression, bears a responsibility to reflect and affect what's going on in the world. No one masters that delicate art better than Lagerfeld, and at Chanel he excels in it, ferociously and fearlessly.
Text Anders Christian Madsen
Images courtesy of Chanel