"C'est un bon cru!” said one French fashion industry expert after the fall/winter 2015 Chanel show wrapped on Tuesday morning. Leave it to a French person to come up with the perfect double entendre to describe a strong collection by designer Karl Lagerfeld. A collection that he created to celebrate the country he calls home — France.
Lagerfeld honed in on Paris's café culture this season to highlight his respect for all things French. So he transformed the Grand Palais into a traditional Left Bank café. But this was a living and breathing set, filled with barmen making coffees, serving freshly squeezed orange juices and proffering up mini pains au chocolat to guests at the bar. While VIPs had reserved bistro tables waiting for them from which to take in the brasserie-inspired collection.
When everyone had gotten their fill of coffee and croissants, the show finally got underway. From the two ends of the venue, models entered the bistro through revolving doors and meandered through the restaurant. Stopping in front of the bar for the requisite photo op.
In the past there have been times when the mise-en-scène of a Chanel show has overpowered the collection itself. But this was not the case today. There was a real balance and connection between the show’s environment and what came down the catwalk.
Each look touched on the world of the bistro. Sometimes in playful, more literal ways, such as the clutch bags designed to look like a stack of Chanel brasserie plates, or a folded menu. Other times the reference was slightly more subtle, such as the white napkin-edged black jacket and matching skirt worn by Jamie Bochert, or skirts that wrapped at the back like an apron, or the beaded mosaic skirts that echoed the patterns found on the flooring of some of Paris’s most famous cafés.
But there were times the link had more to do with all the different sorts of women who like to meet up in their local café for drinks or a meal. The cool girls with their three-dimensional quilted blouson jackets, the detail work lightly echoing folded cloth napkins. The Chanel “ladies who lunch” wearing the brand’s iconic tweed suits, but this time reworked into knee-length dresses.
Audrey Marnay, looking like a young and chic boho mom in her denim pants, gold coin chain belt, velvet top and nubby cardigan thrown nonchalantly over her shoulder, had guests cooing with delight. Likewise a pair of long and lean knitwear dresses in undulating patterned weaves had guests craning their necks for a better view. These French Chanel women, in their (probably already waitlisted) two-tone low heel pumps — a style that was Coco Chanel’s favorite — looked totally current, and in sync with modern times.
Almost all the outfits were eminently wearable. And those that sloped closer to haute couture — in particular one oversized feather-fringed and tweed coat comes to mind — will find fans in Chanel clients who only go to a bistro at the end of a night out on the town and are looking for a place to wind down after an evening of revelry.
The inclusion of quite a number of tweedy menswear looks once again makes it worth posing the question why Chanel doesn’t do more menswear if they can make it look this good.
At the end of the show, all the models found a free seat at one of the many restaurant tables lining the center of the catwalk or circled the bar at the heart of the set. Once they were settled in, they proceeded to order — and eat — what was on the bistro menu.
But next season it will be this collection that luxury customers will be consuming with abandon.