Whenever Chanel does a pre-collection presentation, you know every single detail regarding it a month earlier. The press is burning with the show’s fancy, far-fetched location; Instagram feed is all in #chanel. This time, however, Karl Lagerfeld and the legendary French maison decided to slow it down a bit with their PR – or at least, stay at home. And specifically, in the newly re-opened Ritz hotel on Place Vendome, just a few steps away from the brand’s flagship store on rue du Cambon. Although you can’t call this ‘modesty’, going a bit more traditional than usual is simply… reasonable.
In fact, there were three Chanel shows in one day – the first was presented during a chic brunch; the second started at the time of lunch; and the last during a fancy dinner. The guests (everybody from the fashion editors to couture clients) had a way better day than you, that’s for sure. The clothes were excellent comparing to the last few seasons where Karl did literary everything, from a faux women’s protest to a glossy IT room. I guess it’s because Chanel looks best, when worn in real Paris, rather than in non-sense, meaningless venues. The dining rooms of Ritz perfectly matched Lagerfeld’s vision of cosmolitan elegance. Slouchy knitted cardigans and tweed pencil skirts; black tulle dresses styled with deluxe duvet jackets; shoulder pads and layers of pearl necklaces. According to the designer, the collection was an reflection of and ode to “people from all over the world who’ve come to the Ritz. There were hundreds of dinners in the ’20s and ’30s, where women wore incredible things.” But the most intriguing thing about this collection is the lack of the ’60s’, ’70s’ or ’90s’ tags, which are overused by others in the industry. “You cannot tell from the collection what decade it is, and I think that is modern“. Good point.
90th anniversary for Fendi is not just an anniversary. It’s an occasion to show off. And Karl Lagerfeld proudly celebrated the event during his last haute couture show for the Italian house, making the entire Rome gasp. The show was literally staged on Trevi Fountain, fresh off a $2.4 million rehab. Like in a fairy-tale, the models walked down a transparent, elevated runway, while Fellini-famed symbol of the eternal city has never looked that glamorous and fashionable. No doubt this fashion show will be remembered forever as one of the most magnificent and daring – this can be easily said about the fur creations, which graced the runway, too.
Since the very beginnings of the brand, Fendi was known for “fun fur” – the most fantastically decorated fur coats and jackets were delivered from Roman ateliers, pleasing the aristocratic Italian families and clients. Lagerfeld embraces Fendi’s specific, couture legacy through fourrure, and autumn-winter 2016 is his second one (the first one was also presented as a winter season last July). Words can’t describe the beauty of these masterpieces. A pink dress seemed to be made out of simple lace, but in fact it was Persian lamb with 5000 hand-cut holes. Mosaic-style scene of an enchanted forest was presented on a mink coat thanks to an old technique of stitching and cutting. Some dresses were appliquéd with hand-sculpted flowers from mink. Crotchet gowns oozed with antique chic, embroidered with long-hair mink and fringed leather. “This is what Fendi is all about. No other fur house in the world does it, or could do it” the creative director said during a press conference. That’s a true statement, Karl.
Chanel venue productions are always over-the-top fancy, and always too unreal. But for autumn-winter 2016, Karl Lagerfeld decided to make his haute couture show an actual haute couture atelier. The legendary petites mains from Rue Cambon were transported to Grand Palais with all their sewing machines, becoming a living and breating setting for the models.
“Behind the girls in the show, there are 200 more who make what they wear—that’s quite a lot, no?—and I thought we should show them to the public too.” For this season’s couture, Chanel praised the women who are behind all the coveted tweed pantsuits, duchesse satin dresses and floriform embroidery. However, it seems like the heart of the house was exposed to the crowd; the intimacy of couture-making was disturbed for good, being suddenly photographed and tagged for social media. And surely, producing such venue is a desperate move to steal the spotlight.
But let’s not forget about the clothes, or rather wearable pieces of art. Although first looks were very classical and very Coco, the gowns which were emerging from the “atelier” oozed with drama. Black, tulle gown worn by Molly Bair with an exaggerated collar looked spectacular, while Edie Campbell’s closing look, so an embellished, pink coat with feathers on the back, was ethereal. The concept is ambiguous; the dresses are great. Quite average, as for Chanel.
On Monday, Karl Lagerfeld took his cool ladies, like Tilda Swinton and Carine Roitfeld, to Cuba, and not to the fussy MET Gala filled with cheesy Balmain-gowns and Kim K klan. In fact, everybody thought that Manus x Machina event in New York, and its “galore”, would dim Chanel – but all eyes were on swirling, organza skirts and Stella Tennant’s chic show opening. Dressed in a classy Cubanos smoking, with over-sized collars and pantalons, the monochrome colour palette dynamically evolved into peach-pink and lemon-yellow silhouettes. Floaty dresses, 50s car prints on t-shirts and functional flip-flops – joy and easiness was perceivable along Paseo del Prado, scented with male models’ cigars which were smoked nonchalantly during their walk. Debutante dresses were all about the embroidered, slightly tattered sleeves, showing an homage to Hispanic ruffles which are so popular on the colourful streets of Havana. Even the show venue, a public street, didn’t feel like previous, slightly pretentious resort shows by Chanel – Ibeyi, French-Cuban twin-sisters, Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Díaz performed a soulful, temperamental song just at the beginning of the show. By the end, models, guests, Cuban passersby and the designer himself, danced… and it all looked like a cheerful parade of wearble fashion and Latin attitude.
Of course, these clothes will cost their average, Chanel prices – but still, Karl and his team managed to pull it off in a casual way. Showing a Chanel collection on the streets of a communist country might be risky, and in effect look too distant and Euro-posh. But to my surprise, the collection was a laid-back line of carefree styling, without much of pressure on Cuba’s culture and references. Focusing on a diverse casting (big plus for the brand) and relaxed leisurewear, Lagerfeld has effortlessly started the Resort 2017 season – with grace, and in Cuban rythm.
Collage by me