Much like its ready-to-wear shows, Chanel's couture presentations are famous for elaborate settings based on a conceptual theme of Karl Lagerfeld's choosing: a bustling casino, blooming flowers, the work of architect Le Corbusier. Building such a set for one quick performance isn't exactly the most eco-friendly endeavor, but such is the inherently wasteful nature of fashion and the industry around it.
But on Tuesday in Paris, Lagerfeld presented a spring couture collection dedicated to nature, in both a macro and micro sense, to an A-list audience including Diane Kruger, Gwyneth Paltrow, Monica Bellucci, Cara Delevingne and, much to the photographers' delight, her dog. The Grand Palais featured a two-story wooden structure (which took eight days to build) surrounded by a green geometric garden, made from real grass. The theme easily came through in the clothes: Fabrics were embroidered with wood shavings, small tiles or patterns of bees, birds and flowers. Each model wore cork platform shoes, and almost every look was a different shade of beige. The most stunning looks, however, featured geometric lace and textured embroidery in rhinestones or beading that recalled the mathematical patterns of nature without necessarily incorporating "sustainable" fabrics.
This isn't the first time Lagerfeld has used environmental sustainability as a theme at Chanel. The spring 2013 presentation set was filled with large rotating wind turbines and the runway mimicked solar panels. Is there value in presenting environmental consciousness as a cultural theme without acting in a sustainable way? For Lagerfeld, yes. But it feels like just another theme, though Chanel told Vanessa Friedman that all the wood will be recycled and composted after the show (the label also plans on keeping the house). One small step for fashion, one giant leap for Chanel.
See the spring 2016 Chanel Haute Couture collection below.