Fashionista contributor Long Nguyen is the co-founder/style director of Flaunt.
PARIS–It was not the transformation of the massive grounds of the Grand Palais, with black sand, volcanic rocks and remnants of smoke smoldering underneath the long wooden platform, running nearly the entire length of the exhibition hall built in 1900 for the Universal Exposition. It was not the wall-sized images of burnt trees etched onto ceiling-height Styrofoam boards, which made the rectangular hall feel like the inside of a deep crater. And surely it was not the amount of looks that came out, nearly 80, with models traversing the length of the wooden platform from both sides of the rooms when the light bridges were lowered.
Instead, the most impressive and outstanding achievement at this morning’s Chanel show occurred when the models came out for the finale stood together with Mr. Karl Lagerfeld in the middle of the platform as the smoke intensified from underneath.
Why? Because that moment illuminated how relevant he has made Chanel to the lives of women now. This was also the essence of the couture show in January, where the classic Chanel skirt suits, cleansed of surface decorations, were paired with stretch jeans, thus breaking the formality of a couture look. In this ready-to-wear show, the designer went further to propose easy and elegant clothes without the fussiness of looking like you were wearing, well, Chanel.
The first outfit on Freja Erichsen said it all: A black wool single-breasted jacket with a familiar signature mixture of fabrics amd a little bit loose and cropped to just under the belt loops. It was worn with pleated, slightly loose pants and charcoal shiny leather low boots. The French have a perfect word to describe this–décontracté–and there isn’t really a translation that can account for its subtlety. But this notion of ease and non-challance permeated the entire show.
Call these looks grunge if you will. But the flare grey mixed gingham coat on Saskia, the black one-button pantsuit with a black and white checker Chanel cropped jacket on Sasha, and the loose black and white checker wool coat, matching short dress and slim black jeans on Anja–all against a concerto remix of an ‘80s sample of the Cure–certainly demonstrated how Chanel is changing to embrace a new generation of consumers.
That means younger working women around the world who are less likely to adopt a rigid dress style and much less likely to embrace designer fashion that look and feel overdone. Front row guests like Joana Priest wearing a knit dress and black leather jacket, Marine Vacth in a gold tweed, black crew neck sweater and black jeans, or Kiko Mizuhara in a shot sleeve checkered tweed pull-over jacket and black jeans attested to Chanel’s commitments.
Even the evening looks–like the beaded strap tank dress with rolled-up loose pants, a lace flare leg jumpsuit over a black tank and shorts, or a grey spotted short dress with black puff sleeves–lacked that sense of formality associated with more heavily beaded gowns of past seasons.
I am not the biggest fan of jumpsuits, but I must admit I do like the loose jumpsuits in charcoal tweed and a black beaded version with leather pockets. One of my favorite looks was the men’s charcoal tweed jumpsuit worn by a male model, complete with a Chanel purse, of course. Or is that a man purse, otherwise known as a murse?
As the fall fashion shows wind down in Paris tomorrow, it is easy to see how difficult it really is for designers to propose new manners of dressing for women today. Sitting through so many shows, I have a sense that often many designers work independently of women’s lives. Their runways shows, however elaborate, are out of touch. But Mr. Lagerfeld always has his feet firmly on the ground and this Chanel fall show resonates because the collection speaks volume to a new generation.
**Photos by Imaxtree.