In the Chanel finale, the banners being held by the models said it all: “Feminist but Feminine,” “History is Herstory,” “Ladies First.” This was a collection about female empowerment, and the incredible strength and influence women wield when they join forces and work together.
But even before the “made for social media” culmination of this Chanel show, designer Karl Lagerfeld had already proven his point. This season he erected his own city street inside the Grand Palais, Boulevard Chanel, and on it he sent out his collection pretty much en masse.
The first twenty-five looks walked the 130 meter long catwalk together, a blur of designer creations that left journalists scribbling like mad to jot down everything that they were seeing: a flash of salt and pepper double breasted tweeds suits here, some of paint speckled skirt suits there. And a whole lot of bright shades of pink, red, orange and purple were blended together in an abstract water color print on every thing from flat boots and skirts to shirts and capes.
Thankfully, after that, the ladies (and one man) thinned out a bit, walking in groups of twos or threes, as women tend to do, making it much easier to appreciate all the practical and playful sartorial aspects of this show.
There were the painted leather pieces made to mimic the look of an unused cobble stone street with tuffs of fabric grass,and beaded flowers embroidered to grow between the cracks. Or for the more high end versions (spilling over from couture), Lagerfeld used tiles of cut concrete to mimic the avenue effect. Roomy mens pinstriped suits showed up with a lacquered sheen, or were cut into city shorts to be worn with romantic ruffled cotton tops. Easy khaki suede jumpsuits and generous cropped pants made way for more form fitting stripped knitted mini sweater dresses. One of which was worm by Gisele Bundchen who took to the Chanel street all by her self-assured self.
The all important Chanel accessories were also very much mixed and match. After all, this collection was all about individuality and self expression.
A large proposition of those accessories slanted towards more whimsical propositions. Shoulder bags were crafted to look like classic Chanel sweaters, the sleeves forming the strap. Clutch bags were stamped with messages like, “Votez Coco” or “Make Fashion not War,” or were crafted with working portable radios.
But as playful as the bags were, the footwear was practical. Flat or low heeled boots, men’s business shoes reworked into gold sandals and ankle loafers all gave the models a liberated gait on the catwalk.
Truth be told, Karl Lagerfeld has actually been advocating women’s rights in his own way his whole life. Creating clothing for woman of all shapes and sizes that make them feel more powerful as they take on the world.
When the final banner in the show came into view, stating in French: “The day of the woman is everyday at Chanel,” it underscore the real reason this fashion house has been so unfaltering successful for all these years.