(images via vogue)
so. although opt has actually been following the house of chanel some years now, both in couture, which we’re discussing today (see s/s 2010 hc, f/w 2010 hc, s/s 2011 hc, f/w 2011 hc, s/s 2012 hc) and rtw, i think you know that the past couple of seasons have been fraught with see-sawing. i’m willing to praise karl lagerfeld’s overwhelming talent loudly as any of the sycophants in the fashion magazine industry, but all the same, i’ll also confess (albeit grudgingly, considering the shrapnel that will rain down on my head) when i don’t think homeboy is on his game, something that, indeed, has been happening with all the more consistency of late (kind of like the way woody allen’s films are a bit like 2:1 these days).
thus, that, of course, begs the question: where was his latest haute couture effort, for the f/w 2012 season (particularly as i wasn’t especially pleased with his prior couture, nor his most recent rtw, for the resort 2013 season, presented in may) to land? ah, well, i’m pleased to proclaim that—from where i sit, at least, as there are many others who seem to believe the man could never design a bad item, even if that design might include something like the orthopedic-esque skate-type shoes that were a part of the aforementioned resort show—i found it an absolute success. does that mean the upcoming spring show might fail? maybe. but at least we’ve got the designer’s brilliance here for another day.
“This evocation of Alain Resnais’s elegiac 1961 film, Last Year at Marienbad, elegantly costumed by Coco herself—and Karl’s reminder that he is living firmly in the present—summed up the spirit of a collection that he dubbed ‘New Vintage,’ reworking Chanel’s classics in a way that subtly showcased the extraordinary handwork which the house’s ateliers and the subsidiary embroidery houses that Chanel now owns, are so capable of producing,” us vogue prattled, adding rather interestingly that “‘(a)ll the tweeds are embroidery,’ Karl declared…Whilst some were created entirely from looped silken threads and shimmering paillettes, others were sophisticated patchworks of color-block plaids.”
meanwhile, the iht’s suzy menkes weighed in that “a flow of high-waisted, wide pants..might have come from hazy photographs of a mademoiselle in Deauville…were, in fact, invented in one of the designer’s gouache drawings. With the models wearing mesh snoods and walking in metal-trimmed court shoes, the clothes looked womanly and for the well-behaved. Checked tweed coats and suits certainly seemed familiar, the kind of solid Chanel pieces that come up at auction. Except that they were an optical illusion: new renditions of the eternal Coco look, with every square and line embroidered by the Chanel fairy fingers.”
“But,” she continued (wrongly, i think), “fashion now is not about the actuality of intricate handwork, however beautiful. It is about perception. And the problem with this collection, for all its genteel and fragile beauty, is that it seemed dull — although there were lovely pieces, like a black velvet dress with a frilled pocket in the skirt, and pants in a patchwork of lace. The root problem was that this is not a moment to look back. It is time to clear the closet, strip everything down to clean lines and make decoration sparse…In his recent resort collection shown at Versailles, the Chanel image was of froufrou and frivolity to the max. Playing picador to fashion’s minimalists would not have been appropriate for couture winter 2012. This show therefore seemed like a compromise: a gentle kiss to Coco, but not enough energy for now.”
ah, well, whatever. on the other hand, showstudio opined that “(a)t [the] Autumn Winter show there were, of course, the requisite tweeds, though with extra long sleeves (even sleeveless looks had over the elbow ‘gloves’ cut off at the fingers) and sparkling silver tights to keep you warm. One dress played with a butterfly effect, shoulders of pale pink chiffon and a bodice of striped shell and cream pailettes. All the standard suits were there, a few Peter Pan collars, bell sleeves and slinky dresses (is the new erogenous zone the sides of the stomach and lower back?) Real whimsy came though in an Indian dream of a look with scales fading from blue to hot pink [and] a sweet pom pom dotted shimmer column.”
“The show was staged in the Grand Palais, as has become custom, but this time Lagerfeld used the Salon d’Honneur, a space that had been closed off for 70 years,” style informed us. “The walls were painted, the ceiling and door surrounds customized to an interior design concept that Coco Chanel used in her original salon de couture. But here it was refreshed. ‘A renovation of the existing spirit for our time,’ Lagerfeld said. Renovation wasn’t, however, the thrust of the actual collection. It was far less jeune fille than it’s been of late. When Jamie Bochert and Stella Tennant stepped out on the catwalk, they looked like substantial women of character. Their clothes had a 1940’s line—broad shoulders, swingy coat, cape backs—in a color palette of black, gray, silver, and dusty pink that spoke of film noir interiors.”
“Their hair also had a forties flavor,” the site continued, “with a Rosie the Riveter snood. In other words, there was nothing new about this particular vintage. But it worked, in a gutsy, grown-up way. Lagerfeld’s portrait of Chanel adorned the invitation and, in keeping with that nod to heritage, the spine of the collection was suits. Except that the classic tweed was actually embroidery on tulle. Thousands of hours of handwork. Couture in excelsis.
Lagerfeld paired the suits with sparkling hose and wove silver through his ‘tweeds.’ There was gilding galore….[with] an ethereal gilet spun from what looked like thistledown followed hard and less than coherently on the heels of a tracksuit in dégradé sequins. But that wayward abundance has always been the rule with Lagerfeld’s Chanel. And who knows how that tracksuit will look on the block at Sotheby’s in 50 years?”
and uk vogue praised the “the tweeds that opened the show (in a patchwork of lilac and pink, grey and black)…[included] one oversized jacket, teamed with a silver evening dress…The combination of the two garments together made for a modern twist. Lurex, too, was added to the mix to bring sparkle and shine to the otherwise very prim and pretty ensembles…For eveningwear, Karl took kaftan shapes and cut off their sleeves to turn them into lounge coats to accompany sinuous floor-length gowns beneath. Or kaftans themselves were transformed into shimmering dresses in pink and purple. He then took it up a notch with cream and pastel pink blooms smothering the fronts of dresses that were light, delicate and beautiful. For the more adventurous Chanel customer, there was a pink pompom-clad column gown – certainly a fun addition to the line-up.”
quite surprisingly, we actually found the nyt’s cathy horyn pleased with what she saw: “The beauty of haute couture is that things can be exceedingly odd and individual. For me, that is the basis of dreaming and constructing stories for the woman (me!) who might inhabit these clothes. This was a collection, done primarily in pinks and grays, with touches of pale blue and silver-gray (and naturally black), where tweeds were very often embroideries, where a pair of blue sequined palazzo pants appeared to be dip-dyed in rose pink. In fact, it was all illusion; the pants were entirely embroidered. One of my favorite pieces in the collection was a caftan in a seemingly scratchy knit patchwork of pink and light gray. The patchwork was broken in some places so that you could see the cream silk under layer.”
“Well, the caftan was not a knit at all but an embroidery on chiffon, and in some places the chiffon backing was snipped away to give the appearance of something even more delicate. Another gem in the collection was a long, fuzzy coat (again, an embroidery) that had the solid well-being of a bathrobe….He offered beautiful day suits (some with a fluttery hem of cream chiffon to suggest a blouse), and slate gray coats with matching embroidered tweed bags. And evening looks included a pale pink and gray column composed of micro-thin strips of silk interspersed with bands of tiny pearls, and a gown embroidered with flowers in papery cream chiffon and shaded with a gray tulle overskirt. The collection had all those gorgeous elements, but it had, as well, a narrative. I suspect that ‘new vintage’ was merely a handy catchall for the soulful personalities that set his pen moving across his sketchpad,” she nicely concluded.
finally, taking a more business-focused look at the proceedings, the telegraph did finally get to assessing the clothes in asking, “(w)as it the demure tastes of the Chinese that determined all those high necklines? Not that Chanel has even been a label for die hard vamps. Next winter Chanel’s couture jackets, in patchwork pinks and greys are cut looser and longer and worn with sedate knee length skirts – or ankle length for evening. Sometimes they come with chiffon frills at the hem. Those hems are the only element that was light, at least in the daywear. This was a collection that zeroed in on the substantial: for evening, lovely pale peach organza dresses, strewn with silk camellias, were accompanied by thigh length sparkly tweed jackets or long bouclé waistcoats.”
so there you are. i suppose there are always bound to be some detractors, but on the other hand, as i sometimes like to say when i’m tempted to dismiss a couturier, i believe it is probably wise to look at the offerings through the lens of the clothes as art, as intricate, exquisite works that—whatever a few editors might say—are probably some of the most exceptional, attentive, detailed, and amazing works to be produced contemporarily, and we ought look at them as such; it makes for a different viewing, doesn’t it? and really, even if we’re tempted for the moment to cast these clothes aside, don’t you wish you were so lucky to own one of the gowns shown here (or even to just borrow one to try on for five minutes)?
(see the full fashion show video here)