Channelling the iconic mirrored staircase of Coco Chanel’s Rue Cambon apartment, Karl Lagerfeld riffs on Art Deco modernity
When it comes to their shows, Chanel are renowned for transforming Paris’s Grand Palais – whether into a casino with A-listers playing cards, an airport complete with check-in counters and departure boards, or supermarket fully stocked with CC branded goods. For yesterday’s Spring 2017 couture show however, they pared back, constructing an intimate circular room which resembled a hall of mirrors.
Borrowing the 20s style of the famed spiral staircase in the house’s Rue Cambon HQ, it was more Art Deco than Louis XIV, and featured plush cream couches and vases of lilies balanced on plinths like something out of a Tamara de Lempicka still life. The work of British interior designer Syrie Maugham was cited as a reference by Lagerfeld – a woman who famously told a client: “If you don't have ten thousand dollars to spend, I don't want to waste my time.” A fitting turn of phrase when it comes to couture, really.
Similarly, there were traces of the pre-Depression glamour and modernity of the era and its associated fashions in the collection – meticulous silver sequin shifts with bursts of marabou shimmered to life under the lights, while a flapper dress was beaded with rows of crystals and decorated with tiers of feathers. The holographic shoes and belts were similarly futuristic, while models donned slightly garçonne style hair, parted and slicked to one side – and even Karl turned out in a glittering silver blazer.
“The work of interior designer Syrie Maugham was cited as a reference – a woman who famously told a client: ‘If you don't have ten thousand dollars to spend, I don't want to waste my time’”
With other looks – like smart tweed skirt suits, pearls and dignified dresses – channeling First Ladies rather than flappers, there was more to the collection than a straightforward Deco redux. The most dominant silhouette was one inspired by Giacometti’s Spoon Woman sculpture, which featured square shoulders and wide rounded hips – not exactly the slim vision we expect from the runway. Still, the era was a fitting reference point considering the Esplanade outside the Grand Palais was the movement’s birthplace (the 1925 L'Exposition internationale des arts décoratifs et industriels modernes, the fair which marked its inception, was hosted there).
Closing the show was Chanel muse du-jour Lily-Rose Depp, who did a runway lap in an extravagant pink gown which fell in cascading layers around her. While the final look of a couture show is, traditionally, a bridal one (and an honour bestowed on the model chosen to wear it) ending things with the teenage Depp in a colour other than white felt purposeful and contemporary, like a further evolution from recent trouser-wearing brides Kendall Jenner and Edie Campbell.
Coming out of the darkness of WW1, the 1920s in cities such as Paris was a time of freedom, optimism, and faith in modernity and the future. Coco Chanel’s work and legacy is a testament to that – she liberated women with radical propositions of how they should dress. Even if haute couture represents the finest of fashion’s historic craftsmanship, with every single garment on the runway sewn entirely by hand in the Rue Cambon atelier, the collection was evidence that it too can feel forward-looking.