8 July 2014


It is the craziest crowd of fashion peacocks outside the Grand Palais, the usual place where Karl Lagerfeld stages his haute couture show. Undeniably the hottest ticket seasons after seasons, Chanel show always attracts people the most. But it's what's inside the palais, where the magic happens.

Guests have to pass the metal detector, the only show that has it. Many of the powerful and rich people are attending the show, hence the security is tight. Seated in gold-coloured chairs, with girls in clipboards swinging around carrying guestlists (and some photographs of the attendees, mostly Chinese- avoiding to fail recognising their look alike faces or worse, since their identity is sometimes unknown to larger public), poeple start wondering what the most anticipated show is gonna be.

White, pure, no complexity on decor. Karl’s reference was revealed when the sliding doors at either end of his wide runway opened to reveal mirror-image riffs on the époque-defining penthouse apartment that Le Corbusier created in the mid-thirties for the wealthy aesthete Carlos de Beistegui. At the time, Beistegui promptly layered the architect’s modernist vision with modishly surrealist and flamboyant decorative touches. “He mixed very modern things with eighteenth-century,” noted Karl during fittings on the Rue Cambon.

So those sliding doors opens to reveal a matched set or rococo fireplaces (with virtual video flames floating away) set into an evocation of Corbusier’s low white wall—the original provided a glimpse of the Arc de Triomphe. The Chanel girls appear from both sides, and it is difficult to keep up with them—and the ideas embodied in Karl’s exciting clothes. For Karl, the fashion and the setting seemed to be one, - #itsakarlworld indeed. Now, with the presentation of his Haute Couture Collection for Fall / Winter 2014/15 Karl Lagerfeld rows back to move away from the impressively staged worlds. Instead, he showed his designs in clean high, minimalist style - just stood in connection with the new fashion.

In fashion terms, the clash of aesthetics meant shapes of architectural purity such as stiffly tailored jackets that had the flare of an eighteenth-century courtier’s frockcoat and were worn with tight knickerbockers (Karl calls them cyclist’s shorts).The satchel bags, kepi hats (worn back to front to bare hairdresser Sam McKnight’s messy rockabilly quiffs), and the deluxe flip-flops with jewel straps and taffeta ribbon ties add a relaxed and thoroughly contemporary edge.

Those suits segued into a bevy of miraculously seamless dresses, their belling or gently A-line skirts molded from neoprene crepe that are lavishly embellished with Sun King sequins, beads, and even tiny little chunks of Corbusier’s beloved cement (a Chanel innovation that took three years to develop),  concrete (!) act like a shimmering sequins, and only a super team of petit mains, who have already been with Karl so many years- and therefore get used to his out-of-box ideas - can execute it. Meanwhile, the eighteenth-century paste brooches are blown up huge and replicated in embroidery motifs, sequins were sewn on their edges onto the fabric for a bristling effect, and those cinematic flames are reimagined in tweeds that wove ribbon, woolen strands, plastic filament, and even feathers into intriguingly textured fabrics (resembling at times the richly detailed textile works of artist Sheila Hicks).

This textile of Baroque vision is manifested in the final bridal fashion: embroidered with golden brocade curtain, the wide, turned-up collar, central button placket and rounded shapes cited clearly the fashion of the Baroque - but the dress was kept simple and clean. It is worn by the pregnant seven months Ashleigh Good. Looks like a controversial shootgun bride, no?

As the hordes rushed back to congratulate Karl he was as sanguine as ever. “Like I say,” he pronounced of this astonishing collection, “it doesn’t make the next one.” Whatever that means.

Karl Lagerfeld has once again created a world of its own, even if it occurs more subtle than the seasons before: The truly modern moment in his collection is to combine two conflicting aspects of our cultural history with each other - because just as contemporary art often does.

Signorfandi, blown away...