Chanel’s latest show took place in the Grand Palais in Paris – but in Karl Lagerfeld’s hands, it was transformed into an environment more suited to the likes of Plato and Socrates.
To showcase the Modernity of Antiquity – an addition to the collections shown between autumn/winter and spring/summer offerings – the space featured ionic columns, a Greek island sunset as backdrop and an impressive olive tree. The inspiration: the Parthenon and the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion. France may be on the verge of a political shift but Chanel – arguably the jewel in French fashion’s crown – can still be relied on for a blockbuster show.
This collection had the tropes familiar from a childhood trip to the British Museum: Vitruvian scrolls featured on blouses and knitted dresses, there was the black and terracotta colour scheme of Athenian vases and some models wore laurel wreaths. As might be expected, the Midas touch was irresistible: gold dominated as a colour, on everything from a jacket and shorts to embroidery of the double Cs reworked in olive and oak branches on a sweatshirt.
There is some irony in a designer who famously dislikes nostalgia creating a collection inspired by an era from about 2,500 years ago. However, as the show notes said, this was about imaginings rather than historical accuracy. “It had nothing to do with a country,” said Lagerfeld. “Reality is no interest to me. I use what I like. My Greece is an idea.”
Gladiator sandals with ionic pillars for heels sure to smash social media, and witty takes on the tourist raincoat are more 2017 AD than BC. This show is just the latest from Chanel to gain enviable likes on Instagram – there were more 36,000 posts for the relevant hashtag at the time of writing.
Lagerfeld might be 83 but he excels at modern communication. Chanel was recently ranked the top fashion brand on social media, with 21.1million Instagram followers. Long before the app became required viewing, Lagerfeld created a fashion show with an iceberg and one that took the front row on a Chanel-branded aeroplane. A Chanel supermarket in 2014 and a rocket ship this year followed.
Now at the French fashion house for close to 35 years, Lagerfeld still manages to mine Coco Chanel as muse, and not just in the tweed, pearls and logos here.
The inspiration for Wednesday’s show came from a 1922 production of Jean Cocteau’s Antigone. Chanel provided the costumes because the playwright could not “imagine that Oedipus’ daughters would be badly dressed”. They certainly wouldn’t be in this finery. The last section of the show featured goddess dresses worthy of Aphrodite: draped, loose and graceful, with a sugar pink one-shouldered dress particularly memorable.
This is the second time Chanel has chosen to stay in Paris for an event show - with November’s Metiers d’Art collection shown at the newly opened Ritz. This contrasts with Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior - which also show cruise collections this month in Japan and California respectively.
The Grand Palais event was hardly a cost-cutting measure. Chanel has double-digit growth in 2017, Bruno Pavlovsky, it president of fashion, said in an interview with Women’s Wear Daily. The move could instead be interpreted as a way to cement the house’s status as the ultimate Parisian brand - and make the word “Chanel” synonymous with “chic”.