Chanel Chooses Canny

The house of the interlocking Cs shared a video of the latest haute couture collection on its website. Need Chanel be this frugal? 


Chanel HC July 2020

Put the models in front of a camera and let her do her own thing. And the rest, post-production will take care of it. For all the money Chanel had spent in the past, creating those amazing sets in the Grand Palais, it is rather shocking that, for its haute couture presentation, the brand has decided to do it easy—really easy… and plain. At one time, Chanel could afford to hire the best set builders and decorators, but now they can’t even engage a scene painter or a CGI designer. Before we’re reminded, they did raise the prices of their handbags.

We understand that times have unimaginably changed and that in the lead up to this season, it was not easy to put together an haute couture collection that would culminate in a show. But if there is “creativity in a time of crisis”, as Vogue said encouragingly on its June/July cover, Chanel is not expressing it, although on its website it declares “limitless creativity and sophistication”. It is regrettable that Chanel has to resort to such puffery.

Unexpectedly, they chose the simplest way, and played it straight, creating a one-and-half-minute video for its haute couture collection that is worse than the cruise. A stretched-out roll of white paper as backdrop (footprints in one frame was included) for models that are no Pat Cleveland (or, to be more Chanel and a tad more current, Cara Delevingne) to execute what might be considered a dance. If this was a Hollywood casting call, not one would get a job.


It can be assumed that the video is conceived to just show the clothes. What is shown? Nothing much. It’s hard to see when the editing is frenetic and lighting capricious. Astonishing it would be if anyone thought Virginie Viard would surprise. We know the designs would be as expected, so we don’t pitch our hopes high. She’ll likely add more sequins, and she does, she will play with tweeds, and she does, and and she’ll work with ruffles and gathers, and she does—this time in a light-grey, two-piece that could be homage to Princess Diana’s wedding dress.

The thirty-look collection (not all were shown in the video) of nothingness is apparently “marked by a desire for shimmering opulence and sophistication (that word again!)”, according to their self-sell. The culture of couture is, if we understand it correctly, consistent from the first sketch to the last image, everything by default had to be haute. It requires quite a stretch of imagination to place an unimaginative video within the realm of the sophisticated.

Screen grabs: Chanel

Some Schiaparelli Sketches

The haute couture season opened up with nymphs in need of gowns, but elsewhere, at the house that Elsa built, its designer was just quietly sketching away



Perhaps they did not have enough time to prepare the clothes or enough money to make them. So they put on the Schiaparelli website a video of designer Daniel Roseberry (above) sketching in Washington Square Park in Manhattan, New York City. A straightforward presentation without magic or myth, nor bells and whistles in the homepage for those interested to uncover more. No concurrent video-post on Youtube to explain why he did what he did either. Just old-fashioned drawings, emerging from sweeping hands and deft strokes. A designer and his vision on paper.

It would seem that, due to unprecedented circumstances, the American designer has to remain in the city. The video shows him getting masked up before walking to the 150-year-old park through deserted streets. He finds a wooden bench and sits down to sketch. Before he picks a pen, he removes his mask. The video also shows snippets of him in a studio (or, perhaps, his home), and snatches of his inspiration, which include old photographs of the work of Elsa Schiaparelli herself. The video ends with a close-up of the sketches. There are not clothes.


It’s hard to determine how good the collection is, based on a dozen or so of admittedly good sketches (31 of them was eventually shared with Or imagine how haute couture can take shape without an atelier and without the metiers. This is Mr Roseberry’s third haute couture collection for Schiaparelli. A Thom Browne alum, he has a predilection for dramatic shapes that recall high fashion of another era. The humour and irreverence so much associated with the house have not been evident. But asymmetry, draping, and poufs that sync with the perception of French fashion are.

Mr Roseberry calls his delineations “couture imaginaire”. If we imagine what the sketches would be like as real clothes, they would be dramatic and would elicit the social-media description, “stunning”. These are imaginative designs, with a spirit of the haute that has been slowly easing out of couture. But would they attract a clientele at a time when even imagination can’t show us what the months ahead would be like?

Screen grabs: Schiaparelli


The H&M Rumour

Is it true that Hennes & Mauritz is closing?



In the past week, we’ve been repeatedly receiving a screen snap in our social media accounts. The photo shows an article in Chinese, attributed to a piece published on the news aggregator site Okeyread (新鲜资讯 or Fresh Information). The headline read, “H&M Group Announces: Closure of all branches in Singapore (H&M集团宣布:关闭新加坡全部分店)”. The article does not say from where the information was obtained.

It has been reported in the mainstream media that H&M suffered huge losses due to the ongoing pandemic, with the Financial Times stating that the world’s second largest retailer’s “revenues from June 1 to 24 were down 25 per cent compared with a year earlier, following a decline of 50 per cent in the second quarter to SKr28.7 bil (USD3 bil or SGD4.2 bil)”. In circulation too were news that H&M may close some stores throughout the world to concentrate on e-commerce. According to Business Insider, 170 stores under the group (which may include other labels such as COS) will be closed this year. However, nothing definitive has been announced about shuttering for good all outlets here.

Calls to the H&M office in Grange Road two days in a row went unanswered. At H&M stores, the staff is not sure what the status is. When asked, one member of the sales crew shot back indignantly, “Where did you hear that from?” Others meekly said, “We don’t know yet.” No one attempted to dispel the rumour, even when we told them that’s what we’ve been hearing. Instead, they seem to be telling us that it will happen, but they have not been told the date.

Perhaps it was a weekday, several of the H&M stores we visited were not busy. One teenager with a dress draped over her arm said she had not heard anything. “Please, please, please. H&M cannot close. There is nowhere I can buy cheap fashion. This is where I get my party clothes. Please, please, please. Don’t close.”

Photo: Zhao Xiangji

Dior Does Dolls

Homage to the fashion dolls of the 14th century? Dior’s couture collection during a pandemic is sized-down, dreamy, and nymphs-of-the-woods unreal


Dior couture Jul 2020 P1

As expected, Dior’s presentation of its autumn/winter 2020 haute couture collection comes in the form of a film. The fashion film, not a new medium, has always been supplementary in the communication of themes of collections, not the main means in which ideas are conveyed. During a time when social distancing is not only encouraged, but mandated in some places, fashion shows are mostly cancelled. An audience is no longer expected. Yet, the story of fashion has to be told. And tell Dior does. The film is otherworldly and the clothes are created in miniature on a doll—diminutive dressmaker forms, in fact—and then transported in a doll house to its potential clients—in the woods.

In the 14th century, when fashion was the domain of the royal courts, dolls, not little tailor dummies, were once exchanged among the ladies of aristocratic households. This was before the advent of the fashion magazine. These dolls were dressed in the latest styles; they showed what the latest trends were in France, and were sent across Europe. According to Marianne Thesander  in The Feminine Ideal, “the earliest fashion dolls date from the late fourteenth century when Isabella of Bavaria sent fully equipped dolls to the Queen of England to demonstrate the fashions at the court of Burgundy.”

Dior couture Jul 2020 P2

Dior’s film, Le Mythe Dior (The Dior Myth), by the Italian director Matteo Garrone, is less about history than mythology. The couture dresses in miniature (they aren’t tiny as all of them are taller than the seamstresses’ forearm) are fitted on the mannequins and sent to prospective customers, in this case, nymphs. The setting is some idyllic unknown woods, with a verdant sumptuousness that nymphs deserve to dwell in. Nymphs are from ancient Greek folklore and they are thought to personify nature, and were represented by lovely maidens. The film depicts what appears to be the Naiads, freshwater nymphs; the Meliae, tree nymphs; and others of a mysterious divine retinue, including the odd, not particularly lustful satyr.

The dresses are transported in a trunk that depicts a building, one that bears an uncanny resemblance to the maison-as-dress shown in Dior’s haute couture autumn/winter collection last year. This trunk is carried by two porters who also serve as salesmen who, talented as they are, could take measurements of the nymphs—in one case of a woman who lives in a conch, in the nude. If she doesn’t need clothes then, why suddenly the desire for haute couture? The nymphs very quickly get the dresses they chose, and the rest of the film shows the delight of the nymphs wearing them, one frolicking in, strangely, a bamboo forest! We were expecting Zhang Ziyi’s Yu Jiaolong character in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon to fly among the trees!

Dior couture Jul 2020 P4

There are ten gowns in the trunk. It isn’t clear how Dior will sell an entire couture collection of a reported 37 looks (the last, numbered 77) based on ten red-carpet dresses. These featured frocks seem at odds with the present mood, when large public gatherings are disallowed and when all award ceremonies have, as far as we’re aware, been cancelled or postponed. Even weddings are given the pause. It isn’t certain who Dior thinks might need to be attired in this manner now, or in the next six months. Grecian dresses, poufy gowns, and tiered confections may be pretty to the evening wear seeker, but unless she’s collecting, there is scant reason to buy them presently.

If fashion is about dreams, perhaps Dior is creating one. It encourages the couture wearer to look into groves and grottoes, marshes and riverbanks to see nymphs transform from wearing their near-naked non-fashions to gowns with a post-war, ready-to-live-again sense of excess. A woman can be as ethereally beautiful as a nymph. And then you realise that the porters (or are they bellboys?) look like they are of the present era, and the dresses for a Trump-era prom. The magic is no more.

Screen grabs: Le Mythe Dior