You can never accuse Karl Lagerfeld of being boring. Every season, without fail, he has consistently produced stunning runways shows that are as dazzling in their production value as they are in substance, and Spring 2015 was no exclusion. This season’s showing took place on Boulevard Chanel: a recreated version of a genuine Parisian street, paved with puddle-specked (real puddles!) asphalt and bordered by houses with glass windows and flower boxes. It was pretty realistic down to the smallest detail. Stunning, but all of these effects faded into the background once the models took the stage.
They came in groups: starting with an original crowd of twenty-five girls that sent photographers crazy. Before thinning out into smaller sets of two and three, the models sauntered down the runway chatting amongst themselves, a few carrying mini boomboxes within their chic little handbags. The music from stereos was the only noise to be heard in the silence of the Grand Palais, their tinny sound piercing the quiet before the main soundtrack took over. Whitney Houston’s “I’m Every Woman” was heard, and in many ways it’s an appropriate theme song form Chanel’s Spring 2015 collection.
Kaiser Lagerfeld went the liberated route this season with loosely-tailored, comfortable silhouettes, multi- functional accessories and liberating, easy to wear footwear (I like these, thought I’m more of a skyscraper heels girl) being big features in the runway lineup. The collection is all about female empowerment, and the incredible strength and influence women wield when they work together, hence the runway was full of looks that are perfect for any woman’s “Power Dressing” wardrobe.
This collection was all about individuality and self expression, and as such there was something for everyone in the runway lineup: wide- legged trousers, loose tunics, printed jackets, button- front shirts, military coats, pinstriped shorts, knitted vests, ruffled blouses, sweaters, outsize striped cardigans, capes and knee- length skirts. There were also some lovely dresses and fabulous tailored looks in layered pinstripe. Signature Chanel favourites were spotted in an array of tweed suits, pearls and double- breasted shearling jackets, as were some concrete- embellished pieces that harkened back to this year’s Fall couture show.
There’s a lot of room to mix and match, and there are some stunning pieces- particularly those embellished dresses and some little double-breasted shearing jackets seen toward the end of the show.
Accessories were whimsical: shoulder bags were crafted to look like vintage Chanel sweaters- the sleeves forming the strap, there were distressed messenger bags and carry-alls, large envelope clutches, and chain strapped clutches printed with slogans like “Féministe mais Feminine” and “Votez Coco” or crafted around those tiny radios. As playful as these bags were, the footwear was extremely practical: flat boots, ankle loafers and a whole array of menswear- inspired sandals and dress shoes were seen throughout the show.
This is a season for prints and Mr. Lagerfeld went for ones that packed lots of punch! From the bright paint splattered polka dot motif and the psychedelic swirled abstract pattern seen at the beginning of the show, to the glossy lacquered pinstripes that closed it, this collection was chock- full of eye catching details. Classic tweed was given a graphic update in black and white or was spliced by multi-coloured threads resembling a soft hazy rainbow. There were tartan and striped knits, iridescent watercolour overlays, 3-Dimensional appliqués, graphic monochromatic stripes, geometric patterns and brightly- coloured linings. There were the painted leather pieces that mimic-ed the look of cobblestone streets- complete with with tufts of fabric grass and beaded flowers growing in between the cracks, there were concrete tiles fitted together like paving stones and an iridescent block print on sheer silk net that resembled brick mortar work.
The bold effects were grounded by a base palette of black, white, grey, navy blue and sober grey-toned pastels. I like the use of grey as a base colour in this collection, it’s a refreshing palette cleanser and was a good way to tie the garments into the setting of the whole event.
As I said above, Mr. Lagerfeld chose to convey the idea of feminism and powerful women with this collection, while his central theme circled protests and demonstration- hence all the cobblestone imagery and grey colours, and why the models ‘took to the streets’ for the runway show. There was a sort of demonstration at the end of the show too, with models storming the stage chanting slogans and bearing placards emblazoned with “Make fashion not war” and “Tweed is better than tweet.”
Admittedly I found this pretend protest to be a bit silly and from a feminist point of view, a bit tasteless, but truth be told, throughout his career and in his own way, Karl Lagerfeld has been advocating women’s rights by creating empowering, boundary pushing clothing that stylishly empower us as we take on the world. Additionally the looks in this collection did have something of a feminist, Chanel-for-all message running through them in their diversity and overall vision of inclusion. Coming from a house founded by one of the 20th century’s great feminists, this politically charged collection is really a continuation if the work started decades ago by the great Coco Chanel.
Signature Chanel details are present throughout the show, particularly the ideal that clothes should be logical. Coco Chanel believed in creating garments that glorified function over form…or at least the ideal of combining both factors. She believed that women’s clothing should be stylish AND fully functional, hence pockets on the front of jackets, real buttonholes and handbags with easily- accessible compartments that kept your belongings organized and easy to find. In many ways her original designs were a form of protest against the impracticality of everyday fashion in the mid fifties – she loathed the corsets and petticoats of Dior’s New Look for instance, and following her 1954 comeback, railed against it wherever she could. Considering all this it’s easy to rationalize the slogan-detailed handbags, the comfortable shoes and practical accessories, and see why this collection was so relaxed in structure and form.
In the designer’s words it’s really “more mode de vie than mode.”
The final banner of the show stated “The day of the woman is everyday at Chanel,” and in many ways, it’s a message that rings true: Chanel provides women with classic looks that are almost timeless in their fashionable appeal and quality. The garments are always practical and seamlessly multi- functional in their wear-ability. Most importantly, women feel beautiful and confident while wearing Chanel… and in the end, isn’t that the main function of fashion?
The Chanel Spring 2015 show was an exuberant mix of practicality and whimsy. It was vibrant, playful and thought provoking and it was thoroughly fierce!