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Chanel Seeks to Reinvent the Power Suit With a Retro Spring Haute Couture Collection

With buckled belts and pussy-bow blouses, the house's historic tweed skirt sets took on new life.
The finale of Chanel Haute Couture’s spring 2017 collection. Photo: Imaxtree

The finale of Chanel Haute Couture’s spring 2017 collection. Photo: Imaxtree

We've been taught to expect big spectacles from Chanel. Be it in the form of sets (from supermarkets to brasseries) or a greater theme (like environmentalism, feminism and Cuban diplomacy), Karl Lagerfeld spares no detail in his production. 

At Chanel Haute Couture's spring 2017 runway show on Tuesday, Lagerfeld went a more subtle route, transforming the Grand Palais into a hall of mirrors modeled after Coco Chanel's iconic mirrored spiral staircase at her 31 Rue Cambon atelier. Though elaborate, the set was kept sparse, aside from large vases of calla lilies placed on columns throughout. The mirrored corridors bled into the floor, titled with glossy square plates that seemed to be quite precarious for the models's slick silver pumps. 

Lily-Rose Depp. Photo: Imaxtree

Lily-Rose Depp. Photo: Imaxtree

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The clothes, as always, reflected the backdrop in design as well as in concept, with a series of pastel-colored tweed suiting opening the show. The skirt suit is as synonymous with Chanel, the brand, as Coco is, and this season, Lagerfeld upped the ante. While the silhouettes harkened back to the glory days of '80s power suits, the pieces received a fresh facelift in the form of formfitting jackets, pussy-bow blouses and cinched waists. In the case of the latter, midsize square belts were worn with nearly every look — eveningwear included — so to provide some functionality to an otherwise formal garment. 

And though contemporary in execution and styling, the skirt suits felt more retro than anything else. A nostalgic undertone continued throughout the collection, but it wasn't limited to three decades ago when power suits were at their height. The '70s were well-represented in a sequined tube dress worn with over-the-knee bedazzled boots and a patent waist belt, as well as in a metallic jacquard pantsuit with a square plunging neckline. The '60s came alive in a navy ruffled babydoll dress, and we saw the '50s in a mint green tea-length gown with alternating silk and silver paneling. But the periods fused when it came to the absolutely stunning evening looks that closed out the show, pairing '20s-era feathers with '70s necklines.

The models, as always, came out in full force for Lagerfeld: Lily-Rose Depp closed the show as this season's bride in a powder pink confection elongated by layers of tulle ruffles. The lineup featured its regular roster of Chanel favorites, including Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid, Molly Bair, Lindsey Wixson, Lexi Boling and Arizona Muse, who opened. 

It may have been a gimmick-free show, but it spoke volumes. Above all, it preached to the altar of power dressing — which we may have relied on throughout recent history, but need more than ever as we begin 2017. 

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