Vogue.com announced recently that the most viewed show on its Runway page is Chanel’s spring/summer 2020 collection. This season, too, looks destined to be another hit for the house. Welcome to the masterclass in consistency
Chanel has become more consistent than its ever been: the consistent quality of designing the same way, over time. In the case of Virginie Viard, slightly over a year (the house announced on 19 February 2019 that she will take the place of the late Karl Lagerfeld). Chanel, more and more, and more than the average luxury brand, second the increasing believe that fashion design need not be complicated. In fact, the less in the exercise of design the better, especially for the bottom line. Ms Viard is, of course, not alone in taking the consistent-is-best route. In her good company is Maria Grazia Chiuri and the most consistent of them all, Hedi Slimane.
With consistency comes a susceptibility to the lacklustre. Consistency has the tendency to breed the latter. Styling can mask the lacklustre, and the styling at Chanel does that remarkably well. Even if you watch the show with lacklustre eyes, you may be seduced into seeing lack masquerading as lustre. Fashion is, after all, smoke and mirrors. It helps, of course, that Chanel has loads of costume jewellery to disguise the lacklustre, like fairy light and tinsel livening up what would mostly be insipid trees. And bags—loads of them—to throw you off the scent-of-lacklustre trail.
Consistency and lacklustre are such dazzling partners that they make good runway. The Hadid sisters, regrettably, do pale. Consistency and lacklustre love an audience and the audience love them back. Chanel’s Conlack (in the convention of Brangelina, which Reuters noted back in 2006, “has more cultural equity than their two star parts”) we shall henceforth call consistency and lacklustre, plays to the pervasive social and all-important-front-row aspects well. In the past, fashion has no love for Conlack, but in the present, they have more cultural equity than any part Coco Chanel has ever imagined, beige and black too. And the celebrity-thick audience (presumably, and understandably, with less Conlack lovers from Asia) will lap up Conlack with as much enthusiasm as Marilyn Monroe—bless her soul—dousing herself in No 5, as she supposedly did.
Like news feeds, Conlack is with us more than it ever was. Ms Viard is aware of it too. She understands the power of Conlack and she draws on their immense potency to inflict delightful torture and tortured delight on the rapt audience. It does not matter that customers of Chanel, who could splurge without as much as fiddling with the camellia brooch before committing, are going to buy no matter how glaringly Conlack manifests this season, and they do appear with considerable clarity. Conlack likes no better than showing it can appeal to every woman, every wardrobe, every occasion, every trip to Daily Monop. It has mumsy jackets for madams of a certain age, hotpants for the twentysomethings with legs, and everything between that Conlack can squeeze into, and it can squeeze itself into many things. Conlack, in case you didn’t notice, is thin. On what, you decide.
Conlack has no voice; it is better at echoing. It echoes the voices of the dead; of the living; of the girls who wear their side-buttoned track pants unbuttoned, but no longer; of the KOLs who can’t get enough of hot pants because, well, of course, the weather demands it; of the executive who thinks a long-sleeved shift is work wear and wearing one will upstage co-users of the co-working space, of the crazy woman who slips her neckwear under her tube top because, frankly, crazies do. Conlack offers no surprise. Don’t expect strange bows behind the neck or shoulders that peak above the ears, or coats so roomy you can hide three of your children under them. Conlack loathes surprises. Ms Viard has moulded Conlack so perfectly and so ingeniously that it could reverse last year’s “fake news”, and entice LVMH to come a-calling with an acquisition offer. There is money to be made in Conlack. The world’s largest luxury group knows that.
Conlack is not only about the clothes. It can manifest itself in the hair and makeup too. Conlack hair is sad, no-effort hair. It is the cousin of hair that is synonymous with bad days. Or bridesmaids unwilling to outdo the bride. But Conlack hair is proud hair; it does not need to hide under a headscarf. Conlack makeup is no-colour makeup, the antithesis of what used to be Vamp and its entire dark ecosystem of irresistible products. It is also the opposite of Vamp’s life partner Camp. Conlack makeup is ready-to-rise and ready-to-bed. It is free of the palette, of shading, of highlights. Together with the clothes, Conlack is daily life and consumption that alters your propensity to discern and differ. Conlack, Chanel has shown once more, is top-to-toe—your total, all-loving, fashion-affirming dud(s).
Photos: Alessandro Lucioni/gorunway.com