Chanel invokes renewable energy of fashion

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Jennifer Lopez and four-year-old daughter Emme — both in baby doll dresses — sat front row in the vast glass-and-steel exhibition hall, to watch the show which headlined the penultimate day of the Paris ready-to-wear collections.

On a giant runway in a blue solar-panel pattern, the models wound their way between a dozen towering white turbines, 68 girls modelling a marathon 80 looks.

“I wasn’t going to go for an intimate show in a place like this,” quipped the white-haired designer backstage, from behind his trademark dark shades.

Outsized pearls were clustered at the models’ neck and wrists — the only jewellery in sight — with pearl-like embellishments dotting short black dresses and little bolero jackets, a keynote look of the collection.

“Its all about volume and lightness, which normally don’t go together,” said the designer, who this season used mostly cotton blends — of the highest quality — to achieve his sought-after airy feel.

The short skirt and cropped jacket silhouette came in bright colours too, like black under a graphic, red-and-blue patterned bolero, worn with chunky striped platform heels.

For evening there were sheer dresses with multicoloured feather-like embroidery at the rim, worn on their own or above sheer swishy pants.

Futuristic notes were dotted throughout, like with a quilted red mini skirt and puffed sleeve space-age tunic, or disc-shaped hats with a giant transparent brim, that mirrored the spinning motion of a turbine.

Likewise a tube mini-dress picked up on the solar-panel pattern in scintillating blue embroidery.

Lagerfeld ducked direct questions about the renewable energy metaphor as applied to Chanel, whose rivals Dior and Yves Saint Laurent have been making headlines for hiring a duo of edgy new designers, Raf Simons and Hedi Slimane.

“Energy is the most important thing in life,” he replied elliptically, enthusing about the “beauty” of wind turbines.

“If I had to build a house, I would put them in the garden,” he confided.

But the designer’s pitch was clear: this is a clutter-free Chanel, that can appeal to the younger generation as well as its core client base.

“We will end up babies!” he joked when asked about the more youthful slant to this and previous collections.

In practice, his spring look picked up a job begun a few seasons back, of paring down the house’s traditional esthetic.

“No braids, no classic Chanel buttons, no chains, just pearls, pearls and pearls, that’s all,” he said. “All that is gone, and yet it still looks very Chanel, I find.”

The only “CC” monogram in the collection came on a bag, in quilted white, with giant circular handles.

“That one is for the beach — you stick the handles in the sand and put your towel on it,” Lagerfeld joked.

Linda Fargo, senior vice president of fashion at New York department store Bergdorf Goodman, said Lagerfeld seemed to have pulled some extra cards out of his sleeve in response to the hype surrounding Simons and Slimane.

But unlike other designers, she said: “Karl I think is so confident, that I’m sure he’s curious but he will always stay his own course.”

What does the Chanel designer himself make of the commotion surrounding Simons’ ready-to-wear premiere for Dior, and Slimane’s for YSL, which translated into a profusion of YSL-flavoured tuxedos on the Paris runways?

“These ‘new designers’ have been around for a long time,” came the laconic reply. “I am not obsessed by the tuxedo. Everyone has been doing smokings. People come to Chanel for something other than smokings. Here it is no smoking!”

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