chanel take us to a mediterranean villa for couture
It's snowing in Paris but Karl Lagerfeld transported us to summer.
Chanel’s latest couture show was a pertinent reminder that in the Elysian fields of haute couture, Karl Lagerfeld is a monumental -- in many ways, unparalleled -- visionary who is still able to elicit a symphony of sighs even in his eighties. For his latest couture show, he took us to a Mediterranean villa, complete with palm trees, green lawns and a swimming pool. All the more impressive when you consider the show was happening during a snowstorm in Paris.
Central to the narrative was the technique of artful folding, not unlike origami. It applied to all of the houses’ Cocoisms, but the tailoring was especially strong. It was defined by architecturally turned-up or turned-out collars, rolled-up hems or a perfectly rounded fold on jackets, skirts and neckline. Reverse pleats appeared on the wide boatnecks and the hems of bell skirts, tailored at the waist and opening like petals at the hips. Some of those pieces were even in leather, which must have required an engineer to execute.
The show bounced from the Eighteenth Century to the Eighties; the 1780s to the 1980s. Both were periods of decadence -- the former’s muse was Marie Antoinette; the latter’s was Princess Di. Chanel’s hair maestro Sam McKnight described the ‘dos as a cross between 18th century powdered Fontage bouffants (think Kirsten Dunst as the last Queen of France) and the electric hairstyles of Blitz Kids and 80s-era David Bowie. It echoed a similar bridge in the collection. There were modern iterations of ‘robes des style’, panniered cocktail dresses pioneered in the '20s in homage to the court mantuas of Versailles. They came in a delicious palette of light pinks, greens and blues straight out of a Fragonard painting.
Yet there were also Eighties power suits evocative of those Tom Wolfe described as the Social X-Rays; the ladies who lunched; the O.G. couture club. One monochrome number, outlined in white with pointed shoulders wouldn't look out of place in a re-run of Dynasty, but its skirt was softly rounded above the knee. Such subtle gestures freshen what could be an overtly retro silhouette.
It’s fair to say that many pieces were simply magnificent: an ivory suit embroidered with motifs of Sévres biscuit porcelain; a section devoted to Coco’s beloved LBDs; a blouse fluttering with hand-smocked lozenges, held in place by 650 beads; ornate floral embroidery made from mixtures of plexiglass, feathers and even ceramics.
Vittoria Ceretti closed the show as the Chanel bride in a a bedazzled bathing suit and veil-strewn swimming hat, looking like she might dive into the pool behind her. It also ended with an announcement that Karl Lagerfeld was not present at the show due to ill health. Instead, his right-hand woman Virgine Viard took a bow in his place. Nonetheless, his show was testament to his talent. Here’s hoping he’ll makes a speedy recovery.