Karl Lagerfeld sure knows a thing or two about creating hype, and Chanel takes the coveted spot of being the most anticipated runway show of Paris Fashion Week, year after year. A Chanel show is more than just models walking down a catwalk. A Chanel show is an event. An experience.
In the past creative director Lagerfeld has championed the Parisian restaurant, supermarket-chic and Chanel Airlines, a theme which has been the backdrop for both the 2008 Cruise and Spring/Summer 2012 Couture collections. The Mile High Club was back this year for the Spring 2016 Ready To Wear show, with Chanel creating a buzz with teasers via Instagram.
There’s no denying that the backdrop of the show was spectacular. Every last detail was thought of, from the perfectly planned Gate No.5, to Cara Delevigne waiting to embrace Mr Karl Lagerfeld himself at arrivals, a heart-warming touch. The staging was no coincidence. The whole collection was loosely based on aviation, with very much a ‘world traveller’ theme, reflected in the prints and the red, white and blue colour palette featured on many of the models.
In terms of the designs, Spring Ready to Wear 2016 gives a mixed bag of signals. Some looks are distinctively Chanel and downright genius, whereas others look slightly out of place, not quite fitting the aesthetic of the brand. Even the make-up is out-there, with the models adorning a mask-like wash of blue over the eyes.
Some of the strongest looks in the collection feature a modern twist on the classic Chanel suit. It has been given a 21st century update, with the use of ikat graphics in earthy tones. Merely uttering the words ‘Coco’ and ‘Chanel’ brings to mind a woman dressed from head to toe in black and white, and this is a far cry. However the all-over print successfully echoes a monochromatic look, and gives the pieces a unique twist.
Another beautiful look is again an update of the skirt suit. This is an all-out reworking for spring, and has a loosely tailored fit with bands of floral embellishment in a bright colour palette, reminiscent of springtime blooms. However it is the contrasting statement black buttons and strong lapels that really transform this look. Traditional they are not, but these two looks bring Chanel into the future whilst upholding some of the traditional design elements.
As fresh as these updated pieces are, space-age and sport-luxe are never going to be what the world associates with the quintessential French fashion house. Lagerfeld said in an interview that he chose to use lots of silver detailing to reflect the traditional aeroplane chassis. In some ways it works, and is a welcome change from the gold that Chanel typically uses. However some pieces, like the perspex shoes featured on many of the models, look more futuristic than fashion. Has Chanel strayed too far from its roots?
Overall this comes across as a particularly confused collection. This may be a case where the dramatic staging of the show overshadowed the collection itself. Some of the looks stray too far from the brand’s aesthetic, however others truly keep the magic of Chanel alive, planting the brand firmly in the 21st century.