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Chanel AW16
Chanel AW16Photography Evan Schreiber

Chanel makes everyone a front row guest

Eschewing an elaborate set for an haute couture salon, Karl Lagerfeld returns to a traditional – and more intimate – form of fashion presentation

The words “Front Row Only” on the Chanel invite led us to believe we were in for a much more intimate show than the usual double-C branded extravaganzas revolving around a gigantic set build. Enter the Grand Palais and it was indeed FROW-only. Rows and rows made up of 2,400 gold chairs lined a room with mirrored walls taken from a Parisian hôtel particulier. This was an haute couture salon blown up to epic proportions and the intimacy of those hushed and elegant environments was also left for dead. Yes, you could physically reach out and touch the clothes but the models whizzed by at a brisk pace. They came from both directions so that your head did 180-degree turns to catch the details.

It was a head-spinning marathon of everything you need from a Chanel-inflected wardrobe, speeding along in down-to-earth lace-up boots. Like the eco-conscious haute couture collection shown in January, this was yet another fascinating riposte to the speed of the industry. Too many collections. Too many shows. Too many clothes. These are the accusations levied. Lagerfeld’s output nears 20 collections a year for Chanel, Fendi and various other lines and there’s no sign of stopping.

“It was a head-spinning marathon of everything you need from a Chanel-inflected wardrobe, speeding along in down-to-earth lace-up boots”

Lagerfeld has previously dismissed any notion that the industry is overheated, telling WWD that, “Everybody is allowed to show a collection. There may be too many – but that is not my problem.” It certainly wasn’t a problem at Chanel when he doled out all the Coco tropes – tweed, LBDs and a structural take on her boater hat – which was then sped up with denim, flighty trench dresses, knotted cardigans and emoji jewellery. This was Lagerfeld saying he could show sped up fashion en masse – there nearly a hundred looks – and do them well. Inside this enlarged mirrored Chanel salon, Lagerfeld seemed to be reflecting on the state of ready to wear. His answer? Clothes, and plenty of them. That’s what we were there to see.

Incidentally on International Women’s Day, Lagerfeld was also heard lending support to US Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton after the show, quipping that “there’s nobody else to support anyway” and that it would be great to see a female president. That could well be a cue for Clinton to get a wardrobe upgrade for her presidential campaign. But for Lagerfeld, equipping women (the ones who can afford it) with a wardrobe that functions day to day is a norm. “It’s Women’s Day everyday.”