In Paris, Chanel lights the rocket under a new space race

A rocket launch at climax of Paris fashion week demonstrated that no one can match Karl Lagerfeld’s creative firepower

Space travel stands for many things – the future, bravery, wonder, touching the very edges of what it means to be human – but, on the last day of Paris fashion week, what it represented above all was supremacy. Just as the space race was a way for superpowers to flex their muscles with the world watching, a 35-metre-tall rocket – which launched 10 metres into the air – was Karl Lagerfeld’s way of reminding the audience that no one in fashion can match Chanel for blockbuster creative firepower. Lagerfeld remains the master of this universe.

This show was a spectacular event that will stand alongside Chanel’s most memorable catwalk moments (the fully stocked Chanel own-brand hypermarket; the day Lagerfeld strapped the audience into a reconstruction of the interior of a jumbo jet; the time he shipped in an actual iceberg).

The interior of the Grand Palais was dominated by a Chanel-branded rocket that reached all the way up to the 120-year-old glass ceiling. The audience assumed the fuel tanks and engineers in white hard hats were simply there for effect. But, after a cast of models including Kendall Jenner, the Hadid sisters and Lagerfeld’s eight-year-old godson, Hudson Kroenig, had showcased the new collection on a utility ramp runway for a front row including Lily Allen and Skepta, a blaze of sparks surrounded the rocket as the base lifted 10 metres into the air. (The middle section rose inside the top part of the rocket, so the very top did not actually move, but the audience were distracted from this by an abundance of dry ice and Elton John’s Rocket Man blaring from the speakers.)

Karl Lagerfeld acknowledges the audience.
Karl Lagerfeld acknowledges the audience. Photograph: Patrick Kovarik/AFP/Getty Images

That this show was channelling the geopolitical testosterone that fuelled the space programmes was confirmed by the clothes. This was pure 60s futurism, from the silver go-go boots to the bouffant blow-dries pushed back by wide Alice bands. The show was almost entirely monochrome, flecked with greys and silvers, as if we were watching a live feed on a black-and-white television. The rounded, space-white look of astronaut suits – an aesthetic that still shapes our future, having been largely adopted by Apple (see the AirPods for reference) – was celebrated in silk dresses printed with doll-sized moonwalkers, and in tweed shift dresses whose stiff bateau necklines sat halfway between Jackie Kennedy and the collar of a space suit as revealed when the helmet is removed.

Louis Vuitton tries to break down barriers

Nicolas Ghesquière on the catwalk at the Louis Vuitton show in Paris.
Nicolas Ghesquière on the catwalk at the Louis Vuitton show in Paris. Photograph: WWD/Rex/Shutterstock

Paris fashion week ended in the heart of the city, with a Louis Vuitton show staged in the sculpture court of the Louvre.

But backstage after the show, designer Nicolas Ghesquière said the statement he wanted to make by choosing the world’s most visited museum as his catwalk was not about fashion as art but about fashion as an expression of multicultural ideals.

The Louis Vuitton show
The Louis Vuitton show: ‘an eclectic mix of fabrics and colours’. Photograph: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

“We are here in the Louvre, where the work of great artists from all over the world is brought together as a reminder to us all of the incredible heights we can achieve in our culture when we break down the barriers between us,” he said.

Paris “was made great because it welcomed immigration from all over the world. When I stand here now in the Louvre, I remember that it is that history of immigration which has brought us these riches. It is important right now that we talk about how important immigration has been to the evolution of all of us. Fashion has always been a global culture, and I wanted to follow in that tradition,” he said.

Louis Vuitton bag.
Louis Vuitton bag. Photograph: WWD/Rex/Shutterstock

What this meant for the autumn collection, showcased on a catwalk that wove between marble horsemen, nymphs and goddesses, was an eclectic mix of fabrics and colours. “It’s part African, part Russian, a bit folkloric, a bit pastoral,” Ghesquière said. Yet more frontiers were dissolved as evening wear blended into daywear, with silk dresses worn over chunky boots. But a core Louis Vuitton identity shone through in the cropped trousers with collared blouson jackets,and skater skirts with block-heeled ankle boots.


Jess Cartner-Morley

The GuardianTramp

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