#SuzyCouture: Karl Lagerfeld's Paris Award
Cheers rang out to the top of the Eiffel Tower ‒ or at least the Chanel version re-created in Paris’s Grand Palais.
The vast area, scattered with chairs as if in a city park, was barely big enough to contain the crowds pushing forward to watch Karl Lagerfeld receive the city’s highest award ‒ the Grand Vermeil ‒ from Mayor Anne Hidalgo.
It came after a show as Parisian as it could get: rigorous in its cut but curving in its shapes; a parade based on shades of blue tweed as if taken from a changing sky, but with some subtle interventions of brown and rust.
The models took the fashion journey elegantly from tweed to the lightest of materials sparkling with embroidery as a perfect resolution of a winter wardrobe ‒ this being haute couture for the final portion of 2017.
“It’s all about new silhouettes,” said Karl, whose programme had each outfit in photographic detail, but also a negative-style version facing off the different shapes, including the famous flat Coco hat and neat ankle boots.
Above all, this was a show by a designer who, throughout more than three decades at Chanel, has insisted that he was the German-born outsider, but who was now, with this show, embracing the city that is his home.
“It is a love letter to Paris ‒ there is something in the air and people are looking at France with different eyes,” said the designer, referring not only to the arrival of the new president Emmanuel Macron, but to an undefinable shift in culture.
For Karl, the show was rather about shifting proportions, especially the elongated jackets with rounded shoulders, quite different in shape from the more aggressive 1980s versions. Everything seemed to be cut on the round, especially the tailoring, where a curving jacket might partner with a bell skirt.
The vast area that the models had to cover left the audience time to see the details, especially soft feathers, used as if they were fur and perhaps in bird of paradise colours, in comparison with the monochrome base of the garments.
The only appearance of colourful “tweed” was in fact an illusion: embroidered evening fabrics shading to lightly embellished chiffon. Melded with the iridescence of satin, there were artful effects of light and shade.
This Chanel show was a tour de force of crafted elegance and, for once, Karl did not brush away his unique skills, admitting that it was he himself who worked out the graphic lines and scaled the different shapes.
“I am the only one whose sketches are on the wall and I have no assistant for that,” the designer said, although the fashion world can only hope that there are people around him at Chanel who are absorbing his mighty talents.
This couture show is, of course, only part of the many presentations he serves up each year, which have recently included Grecian influences and a ready-to-wear journey to outer space. The same mix of celebrities and clients, as at other shows, filled the park seats, from newly blonde Tilda Swinton matching hair with Katy Perry, to Mario Testino, catching the moment not on his camera, but his iPhone.
A few in the audience exchanged smartphones for handkerchieves as the bride walked the long gravelled path in a high-waisted ballgown, frilled with feathery sleeves and hemline, the train wafting behind like a cloud. As an ode to Paris, the show was unforgettable.