The excitement of Chanel only seems to grow stronger every season. Master of marketing, Karl Lagerfeld manages to whip the fashion crowd into a frenzy ahead of each show, as we all wait to see what elaborate transformation has occurred within Paris’s Grand Palais. For AW16, Karl infused the entire collection with a sense of bittersweet nostalgia, harking back to the very foundations of the fashion house, as established by Coco herself.
Who better to celebrate on this International Women’s Day than she who liberated women’s bodies from corsets and introduced jersey tops, low heels and, of course, the Breton? And celebrate is exactly what Karl did, with a collection that riffed on all the best bits of Chanel, but which felt entirely fresh and made pretty much everyone we’ve ever followed on Twitter go a bit mad. For anyone who questions the genius of KL, how is it that he manages to pack his collections with pretty much everything, without making them feel over-stuffed or confused?
While we ponder that question, let’s consider the set. Chanel took us back to the couture salon, ensuring every attendee had a front row seat, with over 2,000 golden chairs snaking their way around the venue. Which was a good job really, because there was so much to see. From the hats to the tweed to the pearls, accessories were piled on and utterly desirable.
Fuchsia tweed ensembles opened the show, followed by flashes of denim seen in the form of shirts (worn belted over yet more tweed) and jackets with fabric, balloon sleeves. There were cropped jackets, ruffled shirts, frayed hems, zig-zag patterns, check prints, blown-up blooms, leather trims, wool, sequins, gold bouclé, evening dresses showing off just a glimpse of midriff and more camellias than we’ve ever seen in one show. Chanel’s signature flower was worn as a brooch, in hair, on bags and amongst the pearls, which were layered over almost every look.
Kendall Jenner wore a pale pink look with heavy black accents, while Gigi Hadid was a walking 2.55 bag in a gold, quilted jacket. Her sister Bella showed off a grey wool skirt suit, black, knee-high boots and, of course, pearls.
Instagram was awash with pictures of those boots, which were all knee-high in various colours and finishes, and all seemed to be held together at the ankle by lace-up, eyelet detail. Some were plain black, some had fabric panels to match the clothes and one pair even looked to have been touched by Midas himself.
In many ways, this felt like a retrospective. But, as always, Karl managed to push forward with subtle details and references that tap into the zeitgeist. Earlier in the week, we saw Riccardo Tisci’s preoccupation with Egyptian iconography at Givenchy, and similarly at Chanel, there were motifs and silhouettes which echoed this. While they were in no way as overt, they appeared as all-seeing eyes on choker necklaces and, most strikingly, in a black, semi-sheer gown with gold beading worn by Lindsey Wixon, which brought to mind visions of Cleopatra.
From the short scarves tied neatly at the neck to the cardigans worn backwards with oversized buttons, there was enough in Chanel AW16 to overwhelm the senses, not to mention our Instagram feeds. Whether it was the set, the camellias or the pearls, the spirit of Coco has never felt so strong. Which just goes to show that, considering how relevant and coveted her designs still are, she was a visionary in the true sense. Much like her successor, Karl Lagerfeld.