The New Couture
The Grand Palais – home to every Chanel showing, and an arena that is radically transformed from season to season – an Arctic glacier for one fall and a frenzied supermarket for another winter. A recreated Place Vendôme under twinkling stars one evening to a hedonistic Maharaja’s darbar another night. Today, its glassed dome looks down on a set that’s uncharacteristically understated, almost minimalistic. Today, the Grand Palais is actually a home, an apartment in fact, 20th century Parisian chic down pat. Fireplaces on either side of the runway and a grand baroque-style mirror pay homage to the architectural genius of Le Corbusier, Lagerfeld’s inspiration for Couture 2014-15, and one whose design philosophy focussing on concrete is represented through the set-up of course, but wondrously, in the clothes from this collection as well. So we see concrete mixes with pearl, sequin, embroidery, inlay, perforation. A fresh fashion form, to put it mildly.
And taking it all in centre front row is Karl’s latest muse, Kristen Stewart. Dressed in white harem pants from the previously well received Cruise showing, she is the epitome of Chanel’s feminine vision – young, opinionated, unique, loved and emulated by masses. A signature symbol of popular culture, just as previous faces Keira Knightley and Blake Lively have been. It is this definitive section of the youth that Chanel has been wooing, and also educating.
The lure, or bait, as it may be, struts in the form of co-influencers, Cara Delevingne and Kendall Jenner. Both bobbing their spiked hairdos encased in jaunty sequinned berets, working those decidedly non-couture bicycling shorts with elegant dresses and coats, bias cut and seamless – again, a departure from what the couture platform of pattern cutting and million hours of sewing typically dictates. It’s the birth of the future, of what the innovative style brigade of current day icons bring to the table. It’s a place where sneakers and gowns, rock-n-roll leather and Victorian silhouettes could all somehow work together. It’s the new de rigueur.
That’s just the point where the Chanel master class ups the ante a notch. Dean Karl applauds this new age disregard for anything non-individualistic and the fashion house’s successfully (and consistently) sold out key ticket items are testament to the fact that the man knows how to get the zeitgeist pulse racing. But what he is also doing, quietly, determinedly and unabashedly, is keeping the flame of Coco Gabrielle Chanel alive, taking that inheritance of tweed and readapting it, year after year, to the point where one cannot fathom whether this bit of woollen plaid is classic or trendy, or paradoxically, both.
What started as Chanel’s fashion conception may well go down as Lagerfeld’s historic legacy. Even Jared Leto would nod in complete agreement.
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