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Chanel Métiers d'Art pre-AW16
Chanel Métiers d'Art pre-AW16Courtesy of Chanel

Inside Chanel’s cinematic tribute to Paris... in Rome

Bella Hadid in a Bardot beehive, a film projector bag and a guest appearance from the Metro: the Kaiser brings the house’s native city to centre stage in the Italian capital

Susie Bubble reflects on Chanel’s Pre-AW16 show, held this year in Rome.


Journalists flown in for Chanel’s Métiers d'Art extravaganza in Rome had been gorging themselves on carbonara pasta, Carravaggio paintings and carrara marble monuments, but when it came to the show itself, Karl Lagerfeld very deliberately let it be known that he would be bringing his longtime city of residence to the Italian capital. At Cinecettà studios, where Italian classics like Fellini’s La Dolce Vita were made, guests were golf buggied into the heart of the film complex initially thinking we were going to sit outside amongst the fake facades of Roman temples and basilicas (the BBC series Rome was filmed here). Instead we headed inside Teatro No.5 (duh) to see a pastiche of a Parisian street. Whilst everyone was doing their selfie ritual, as demanded by every elaborate Chanel show set, you walked around this charmant little street with a fleuriste, a boulangerie and a cafe and wondered what was behind the façade. The Metro sign said Rome, but the Art Nouveau font said Paris. And even if all roads lead to Rome, there’s no denying that Chanel’s home base took centre stage.


Remember that finale in Sex and the City, when Carrie goes to Paris and finds herself being ostracised by a very French, very don’t-give-a-fuck Cécile Cassel? That was the attitude of the models that emerged from the Metro station, stalking around in racy lacy tights, leather trenches and an almost raunchy incarnation of Chanel suits worked into dresses, mussed up with bedhead beehives and smudged in eye make-up. 

These girls definitely smoke five packs of Vogue ciggies a day, say “Non” a lot and maybe have Simone de Beauvoir paperbacks stuffed nonchalantly in their pockets. And yet, Lagerfeld erred on the right side of cliché. Chanel doing Frenchness is nothing new, but when it came with a an expected slick of sleaze you couldn’t but embrace Lagerfeld’s modern echo of French ingénues such as Romy Schneider or Anouk Aimée.


The Parisian set that Karl Lagerfeld and Chanel had dreamt up was one of early 20th century films where Gene Kelly or Audrey Hepburn might pop up out of nowhere. It was a familiar black and white vision that was also echoed in the early portion of ensembles that stuck largely to a palette favoured by Coco herself, who once said “I have said that black has it all. White too. Their beauty is absolute. It is the perfect harmony.”

Just in case we forgot where we were, on the accessories front, Chanel’s latest novelty bag was an old fashioned film projector. Like a black and white film that slowly bleeds into Technicolor as in The Wizard of Oz, colours did slowly start to filter in, as seen in the pastel-hued appliqué pieces and the autumnal looking tweed. As did Italian detailing like painted feathers made to resemble marble veins and farfalle embroidery created out of leather. Stark Parisian monochrome gave way to a softer, perhaps more Rome-inspired warmth and generosity. 

It wasn’t just about a cinematic fantasy though. With the Eiffel Tower lingering in the painted black and white backdrop, you couldn’t help but think of the recent attacks on the city. The Parisian quaintness of this make believe film set made you think of a city that is undergoing tumultuous changes in its outlook. What Lagerfeld communicated was defiant, though. As the lights came on in this Cincecitta constructed set one by one, and as colour slowly flooded into the clothes, it was clear that Paris still burns brightly and that for Lagerfeld, its light can’t be diminished.


Bella Hadid made her debut in a show that could be likened to the fashion world’s adoption of another Lagerfeld favourite – Kendall Jenner. Gigi might be the one grabbing all the headlines, but Bella got the Chanel nod of approval. The casting line-up also saw the return of Audrey Marnay, Freja Behensen and Lara Stone to embody a variety of notions of French chic. Stone in particular, with her beehive do and smoky cat eye, bore more than a passing resemblance to Brigitte Bardot, the beauty muse behind Lagerfeld’s Parisian femmes.

“These girls smoke five packs a day, say “Non” a lot and maybe have Simone de Beauvoir paperbacks stuffed in their pockets”


Lagerfeld’s eleven minute film Once and Forever, starring Kristen Stewart as an actress attempting to portray a young Coco Chanel, deliberately took us behind the scenes. Tantrums, paparazzi flashes and multiple film takes made for a brand film with a radically different approach. The fact that we were in amongst fake facades, Roman statues made out of polystyrene and a purposely artificial Parisian street set also felt like symbols of fashion’s many deceptive surfaces. Just as cinema seduces viewers into a make-believe world, fashion also has its illusions. With that said, in a Métiers d’Art show, where the spotlight is on the petite mains of the artisanal houses of Lesage and Lemarié, what goes on behind the seams do matter. This may not be warts and all fashion, but for a designer like Lagerfeld, who always has zeitgeist on his mind, it certainly felt like a passing comment on an increasingly transparent world.