Long Nguyen is the co-founder/style director of Flaunt.
PARIS–You never know what to expect when entering a Chanel show. Chanel is the last fashion house in Paris that consistently stages shows on the grandest of scales–one season it was a giant golden lion, another a farmhouse done to scale, another time an actual iceberg imported from Sweden, and last season, a volcanic eruption.
This time the Grand Palais (that massive exhibition hall built for the 1900 World’s Fair), was done all in white, the floor covered in sparkling white sand, the seating curved like ocean waves. An aquatic scene was set: there was a whale’s tail, seaweed in various states of submersion, giant clams, coral reef, a giant stingray, snails and shells scattered throughout.
Oftentimes, décor and spectacle can overwhelm the fashion, but that was not the case here. On the contrary, the tranquility of the aquatic scene, the feeling of being under water, only served to enhance the collection. Models walked out from what appeared to be the mouth of a giant octopus while Florence Welch sang a la Botticelli, on the half shell. The clothes seemed to flow on the body like the movement of water. Silk petals on skirts and on the shoulders of dresses resembled fish scales, sheer tops were cut to look like gills, and slippery tops looked like rocks polished by the sea.
Mr. Lagerfeld moved the Chanel classics forward, showing fluid, easy-fitting cropped jackets worn with knee-length skirts and dresses. There was nothing fussy about these light, airy, clothes–perhaps a reflection of how women dress today.
Knit dresses done in perforated cotton, tee-shirts topped with shoulder pads, and loose skirts reminded me of the photographs I saw last year of the white knit tennis outfits that Coco Chanel made for the performance of Ballets Russes’ Le Train Bleu in Paris in 1925 at the Sergei Diaghilev exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. Those ballet costumes were an extension of Chanel’s 1924 collection of knitted wool and jersey fabrics jackets and suits, clothes that were revolutionary then because jersey was a fabric for men’s undergarments and wool was not considered a fabric for high fashion. Then, Chanel introduced sports elements into womenswear to make it easy, comfortable, even, and chic; now, Mr. Lagerfeld brings the lightness of water to show ease as well.
Mr. Lagerfeld weeded out the excess at Chanel this season. Handbags were kept to a minimum; they were small–snail-shaped clutch or a black rectangle with handles like pebbles from the beach. Gone were the multi-strands of necklaces and stacks of bracelets; in their place, pearls woven into models’ hair, glued delicately down Arizona Muse’s spine, and sparingly, on faces.