It could be an allusion to Biarritz—the seaside town where Coco Chanel opened her first couture house in 1915. If so, the recreation of sand and sea in the Grand Palais was not only clever, but evocative. However, would it not have been better to really stage the show in the Basque coast instead? Or would that have been a tad too Jacquemus? Well, if Karl Lagerfeld can’t go the the beach, bring the beach to him
Here, in Southeast Asia, many of us are riveted to our news sources for updates on the tsunami that hit the Indonesian island of Sulawesi four days ago. The Chanel show with the girls walking on the make-belief beach in their Chanel finery seemed, in contrast, a little impervious to the misfortunes of others, half-way round the world. Of course, Chanel could not have planned this splashy production by taking into account what they could not have possibly predicted. Still, the disparity between the fantasy evoked in a fashion capitol and the tragedy of an unheard-of coastal town was palpable, leaving us to see that fate and fashion are truly different worlds.
Chanel’s beach-centred collection for next spring/summer could have been La Pausa Part II, La Pausa (also Coco Chanel’s villa in the south of France) being the fake ship that was part of the set for the cruise 2019 collection, shown in May. The thing is, it’s no longer easy to differentiate between the Chanel seasons, not even between the couture and the pret-a-porter, so we remember the characteristic but indistinguishable clothes by the set against which they were shown: the supermarket collection or the airport collection! Provincial perhaps, but not ineffective.
In fact, the Chanel clothes have been so dependent on the extravagant sets to mean something that one suspects that design matters less than theatrics since the label banks mainly on its house codes to interest their customers and commercial sass to keep them buying. As we watched the girls go by, bare-footed, and over-layered on the seashore with no sea shells, we wondered if Karl Lagerfeld, prolific as he is, has spent too much time dreaming of context than clothes. Which, we found ourselves asking, came first: set or dress?
Maybe it’s dress. Then to make it thematically strong, give it scene-setting context, a beach complete with lifeguards, a diorama that only a powerful fashion house can afford to erect. This is even better than 4K broadcast. You have the lapping sea before you and real sand. All the antiquities in the Louvre can’t top this. Coco herself, in her wildest dreams—and she had some of those, we’re sure—would not have imagine that more than a decade after her Biarritz debut, the sea that she enjoyed would be brought to Paris, in the Grand Palais. Is the water salty and the sand warm, we wondered.
Few women, of course, enjoy the beach with so much clothes on. All dressed up to go to see the sea? You could call it sea folly if not for the fact that Seafolly is an actual beach wear brand—from Australia. But it would be hard to describe bouclé suits on the sand as anything else. We’re not sure if Coco Chanel ever thought of being suited in bouclé, even summer bouclé, when strolling on the water’s edge, but Mr Lagerfeld has made it, well, a walk on the beach, with the usual boxy shapes in colours as light as see breeze. After 35 years at Chanel, Mr Lagerfeld has perfected the bouclé suit and has offered so many variations for so many occasions that perhaps now is the time for those that can be worn to make sandcastles and pick crabs.
This is his flair: making the unlikeliest of things distinctly possible, not to mention a knack for imbuing otherwise commercial clothes with a vibe that is fashionable. Or, the way the younger set likes it, such as the white shirt Kaia Gerber wore—rather unremarkable if not for the black Chanel branding on the pocket flaps. Or, could this have been a spillover from the Karl X Kaia collab? For a label that sells quite a lot of shoes, it is perhaps against promotional wisdom to let the models go bare-footed, carrying the footwear in their hands, augmenting, instead, the dreams of many women: long walks on the beach, with the soft, warm sand underfoot; a moment of bliss, possibly romance; a retreat from urban bustle, as a piña colada awaits somewhere in the distance. The Thais have a word for women of such inclination and with such love, but it would be too impolite to print it here. Let’s just say she could be the Chanel woman.
Photos: (top) Getty images, (runway) Chanel