Long Nguyen is the co-founder and style director of Flaunt
PARIS--A pile of sand--dry, not the kind dumped on top of the icy streets outside--and a small forest greeted guests as they entered the Grand Palais this morning for the Chanel Haute Couture show. Sounds of birds chirping could be heard in the distance. A wooden walkway curved through this small pine and oak forest. At the summit of the climb was a semi-circular Roman amphitheater--the perch from which fashion's elite would take in the collection. The elevated seating afforded an intimate view of the Chanel couture show, which opened with a series of classic Chanel suits and dresses all in white tweeds.
White, a color that signals renewal and rebirth, figured prominently in the collection from winter white tweeds to organza silk with blooming flowers. The entire collection felt so incredibly light. The embroideries of pink, red and beige flowers looked so life-like and almost effervescent as if they were floating on the black tulle. The models, both in the white tweed suits and the floor-length gowns, looked as if they could take off as they strode the long sandy path with ease. A light purple floral bubble dress seemed as light as air, the sheer overlay of tulle skimming over the darker dress beneath, pleasantly revealing the space between the fabrics. Weightlessness, as conveyed in the open neck and raised sleeved dresses, seemed to be a theme--perhaps to counteract the heaviness of couture techniques and heritage modes that can sometimes weigh historic houses down. All the different flowers--embroidered with sequins, glass, and crystals were crafted in a way that, despite the immense amount of time and skill needed, felt subtle and easy; the expert craftsmanship did not hinder the natural movement of the dress in any way. The lightness that permeated throughout this Chanel collection was intentional it seemed because today’s couture is no longer about showy costumes but clothes that customers can adapt when they purchase their made to measure outfits.
Despite all the elegance and glamour, there were elements of street style, which made the collection appealing or at least relevant to a new generation of younger, more eclectic consumers. The thigh high black leather boots and black elbow gloves broke the ethereal and elaborately embroidered white or light pink marabou feather dress. A off-the-shoulder embroidered pink flower dress had a crewneck t-shirt underneath and thigh high lace open-toe boots. Black tulle netting around the eyes added to the ongoing street gothic look. You wouldn’t necessarily associate these looks with couture--but it worked. The show ended as it started, with a sweet romantic note as two brides took to the arena holding hands, with four-year-old Hudson Kroenig also in tow, a gesture of support for marriage equality in France--an issue which is currently being debated in the National Assembly. I think it is this ability to connect and to reach out to different groups of people by means of breaking the glass ceiling of a couture outfit--folding streetwear elements into clothing items that could take up to 2,500 hours to embroider--is what makes Chanel relevant, not just to those who can afford couture, but to the fashion-minded masses. By keeping a close ear to pop culture and social change, Chanel earned its place in reflecting today’s social and cultural trends through clothes.