Long Nguyen is the co-founder/style director of Flaunt.
PARIS–It was a little bit past 10:30pm on Tuesday night, and though the sun had just set, the sky was yet to completely darken. Despite the passing of a few clouds visible from the glass dome at the Grand Palais, the lights emitted from distant stars were hardly visible on the horizon. Under the glass ceiling, Chanel had erected its own version of the famous Place Vendôme, with a tall black tube of circular lights wrapped in sheer fabrics and surrounded by a black wooden mock up of the jewelry shops on the square. Neon lights served as window frames and white lights as distant stars.
In just a blink, the stage darkened and the streetlights along the walkway were turned on and a model emerged wearing a grey tweed skirt suit with an hourglass shaped jacket that flared above the hips. After a few seasons in which the classic Chanel tweed suits retreated slightly in favor of dresses and mixed dressing, in this show the suit again dominated. It was an ode to Chanel style over the decades.
This new looser silhouette, some with an hourglass curvature, came in a variety of jacket styles: high lapel; flared neckline; cropped short sleeve; elbow sleeve. Paired with knee high shiny leather boots, a single-breasted grey tweed skirt suit with matching hat and sequined and floral embroidered tank seemed slightly more formal than last season, when jackets were worn with a pair of tight jeans. The jackets are also available in cropped versions, worn with short dresses underneath.
Evening dresses bloomed in the nighttime show, including a light pink dress with rectangular sheets of chiffon sewn onto the silk crepe, with black jet beads on the shoulders and black feathers gracing the trims of the sleeves. Outstanding was the lightly transparent black dress with fuchsia and black painted feathers embroidered onto the silk fabric. A few outfits looked misplaced, like a blue satin long dress with ostrich feathers and a navy floor length tuxedo coat with a black beaded dress.
Despite of all the array of ostentatious evening gowns available, I loved the simple black coat with large patch pockets.
Today, haute couture is central to the culture and the DNA of Chanel. Each show is an affirmation of the absolute commitment of the house to the success of couture. Some may dismiss these expensive clothes as old fashioned. But the old-world artistry provides a counterbalance and a stark contrast to today’s light speed lifestyle. Looking and experiencing couture at the highest level makes us human again, slowing down the passing of time. Daylight was not required to really see these tremendous displays of workmanship.
Titled “Les allures de Chanel,” this show epitomized the history of the house of Chanel and emphasized the elevated skills of the atelier, which works in conjunction with various specialized artisanal shops, like the embroiderer Lesage, the feather and camellias maker Lemarié, the bronze button and jewelry maker Goossens, and the ornamentations from Desrue (which Chanel has owned since 2002). That these specialized skills survive and thrive today represents what’s really unique about the Chanel couture operations.
And it isn’t a media operation: On the afternoon after the show when I visited the couture salon to look at some specific garments, many of the runway looks were temporarily unavailable, as they were being held in appointments with clients in adjacent rooms. One the two glass closets that housed the delicate garments were nearly half empty.
I wanted in particular to see how the white skirt suit with layers of torn chiffon was created or how a long zigzag black and grey pattern dress was made. But instead I settled for learning that what looked like a metallic one shoulder top was in fact elaborate strings of tiny white pearls embroidered in the Lunéville style and augmented with half balls of light bronze and steel metal shells.
**Photos by Imaxtree.