Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Paris Haute Couture: Chanel spring/summer 2013

Freed of the obligation to churn trends, Karl Lagerfeld gave a masterclass in relevance at Chanel's intimate couture show in Paris today.

Karl Lagerfeld doesn't have to make trends, merely keep Chanel relevant. Merely? Relevance is a slippery commodity. The stream of chic-ly packaged perfumes (the latest, 1932, was handed out to every guest at today's show in Paris), tongue-in-cheek bags and accessories ensure it's never absent from the fashion pages for long.

But to remain Chanel, it has to have soul. This collection has that.
Set, like the Dior show, in an effulgently green woodland of Scots pines and soaring Holm oaks from Normandy (very Royal Wedding, but don't worry, no trees were deliberately felled for this show), it was a far more intimate affair than the huge ready-to-wear spectacles.

This allowed for detailed scrutiny: of the delicate black Chantilly lace layered over a cream bouclé suit, worn with thigh high skinny leather boots (other waders were gold lame and net and peep-toe), of the trembling cream and eau de nil feathers on tulle necklines and hems and the beaded, embroidered and sequined flowers blossoming across long column dresses and cinched with spaghetti-thin red belts.

Freed of the obligation to churn 2013 trends and confining himself mainly to red, black and white, Lagerfeld exercised his right to roam through time: 60s inspired tube dresses, C16th doublet-style sleeves, 50s inspired bracelet length sleeves, a Miss Haversham dress here, an Empress Josephine empire line gown on Cara Delevingne there, with hairdos that were part tipsy mantilla, part Girl with the Dragon Tattoo mohawk, and make up that was wholly Clockwork Orange.

The "traditional" wedding finale consisted of two brides, surely a riposte to the hundreds of thousands who recently marched in Paris to protest against the legalisation of same-sex marriage? It may do nothing to further the argument - there are limits to the power of even a relevant brand - but those gauzy layers sure were pretty.

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