Karl Lagerfeld’s got Seoul, and yes, the pun is intended!
Chanel’s 2016 Cruise collection premiered in Seoul, South Korea on May 4th in the futuristic, spaceship-like Dongdaemun Design Plaza in the heart of the glittering city. The event took place on a minimalist set with a colourful expanse of polka dot-shaped stools and light fixtures which transformed the bright white space into a giant Twister mat. The runway was also vividly spotted and models stomped to the beat of funky electropop, vividly presenting the collection to a host of international starlets and South Korean luminaries.
South Korea may seem like an odd stage for Chanel, but there are many reasons why this was the perfect location. Design-wise, Korean traditions and culture offer Mr. Lagerfeld a treasure-trove of visual inspiration that’s much newer than more familiar Asian contemporaries. The grandeur of an ancient culture that’s still relatively undiscovered by the West, mixed with the hyper vibrancy of the recent K-pop phenomenon, South Korea has more than enough of the vibrancy and sugar-rush kick that Mr. Lagerfeld could possibly use to base a collection.
This is the first time that a major fashion house has designed on and presented a show in South Korea, and I think that Mr. Lagerfeld’s bold move has just opened up a new and fabulous frontier to international design!
From a retail perspective, South Korea is one of Asia’s rising superpowers with a fast growing economy and an excess of wealthy, luxury-oriented consumers with a taste for designer goodies. Luxury retail is one of the most lucrative sectors in South Korean retail, with a strong and growing customer base and a high demand for fine things. Many fashion giants have heeded the call and can now be found in the Asian metropolis. Maison Chanel alone has 15 boutiques in South Korea and is gearing up for a major flagship opening in Seoul in 2017. This Cruise Collection, with its fabulous location, all of its press, glam and anticipation, couldn’t have been held at a more auspicious time for the brand’s plans.
Now, lets talk about the show. The 2016 Chanel Cruise show was downright beautiful!
Mr. Lagerfeld didn’t try to recreate an actual costume history, but there were plenty of Korean threads woven into the collection. The hanbok- South Korea’s equivalent of the kimono- inspired the designer with its voluminous shapes, vivid colours and bright patterns. He delivered his own variation on the theme in the form of empire-waist dresses with wide sleeves, full skirts and flirty raised-waist ruffled smocks that I think are to die for.
Bold stripes and vivid patchwork similar to traditional hangbok decorations were key design motifs that showed in prints through to gauzy linen collages- an old technique that looks surprisingly pop art modernist. They added gorgeous zing to the trailing sleeves of several dresses and kicked up the intensity when applied over entire outfits in busy puzzle patterns. Accessories weren’t neglected by this ornamentation: stripes and patchwork were all over the fabulous satchels, flap bags and beaded clutches!
Elsewhere in the collection, time-honored Korean craftsmanship sparkled in embroidery and mother-of-pearl embellishments that echoed the gold marquetry of antique Korean wedding chests. Camellia flowers provided dual design symbolism with the rosy blooms being both an ancient part of Asian horticulture and an integral motif of Maison Chanel. They appeared almost everywhere in this collection, rendered in fabrics like floral lace and patterned knitwear weaves, and appearing in 3-D ornamentation in pearly appliqués and abstract floral beadwork. There were even camellia-shaped cutouts on the bodices of a few pieces.
The Chanel tweed came out in full updated force in punchy brightly- hued weaves and patent leather trimmings. One gorgeous tweed ensemble sported the Korean characters for “Chanel,” “camellia,” and “Cambon” in its weave, another was spliced by patent leather paneling and several versions boasted gorgeous hangbok sleeves. “It’s an updated Korean version of the Chanel jacket,” Mr Lagerfeld noted, and what a stunning update!
Of course, K-pop had to be included and its kaleidoscopic touch appeared in this collection’s punchy ‘special effect’ detailing. Manic prints and synthetic fabrics aside, there were garments that could have come straight off the set of a K-pop music video: patent leather bellbottoms, chunky heels with squared off toes, sequinned rompers, metallic hot pants, lacquered lace ‘babydoll’ blouses, sandals with built-in leather socks, embellished jeans… the list goes on! These jarring, unexpected flourishes made for interesting runway fare and kept show attendees (and reviewers) on the edge of their seats.
It was a very solid collection. Showstopper pieces aside, there were garments that would be welcome additions to any woman’s closet- stylish, practical pieces in an array of little half-belted jackets, sober ombré dyed denims, button-front blouses and embellished sweaters. A pleated drop-waist dress was smart, as was a pink and white linen outfit. Chic pencil skirts- in tweed, linen or sequins- and pleated shorts would be breezy summer additions to any outfit, while those new tweed looks are the perfect mix of elegant and edgy. There were lovely options for evening, along with fab options for a night of partying. What a collection!
I personally adore the flouncy embellished tunics, metallic patterned jackets and sparkling mini blouses. Let’s not even talk about the accessories! These are what makes the king’s share of Chanel’s annual revenue, and there were too many fabulous examples on display for me to go into detail about. Let’s just say a floral- embellished flap bag or two have made their way onto my list of birthday presents this year… as well as several pieces of jewellery!
Chanel Cruise 2016 Seoul was a gorgeous mix of ancient traditions, time-honored arts and modern pop culture. Mr. Lagerfeld went all out with a collection that’s is the perfect combination of iconic elegance and urban edge. I love it!