The expansive scale of today's Chanel fashion show, under the glorious dome of Paris’s Grand Palais, risked dwarfing the spindly models on their prim little heels, but designer Karl Lagerfeld created a collection and a mood with enough color, texture, and cultural references that they held tight to the audience’s attention.
Lagerfeld’s set mimicked an art-gallery opening — complete with passed hors d'oeuvres and drinks — whose white walls were dominated by paintings and sculptures inspired by the iconography of Chanel. Three-dimensional interlocking black CC’s stood twenty feet high. An oversize quilted handbag was installed on a wall with its chain-link strap trailing down onto the floor. An impressionistic painting of a two-tone Chanel pump hung on one wall; and, a little farther down the way, there were paintings of camellias. On the other side of the room, a textile installation mimicked one of the house’s signature bouclé jackets.
Among the multitude of characters and story lines fueling Lagerfeld’s twenty-minute (or more?) runway show were: the starving artist, the artistic life, and art itself. Gray, square-collared dresses suggested the faded smocks of a romanticized artist living humbly in a garret; paint-“splattered” dresses recalled the working artist; tidy suits made one think of the unabashed wealth of the art patron. And graffiti backpacks and offbeat styling – such as Technicolor eyeshadow — called to mind the arty gamine.
Lagerfeld’s ability to riff on the Chanel jacket knows no bounds. The clothes were recognizably and reassuringly Chanel, but he presented them in a manner that offered his guests a little more to consider than simply whether the violet knit dresses on the runway were appropriate for a business meeting and if the pastel woven ones were too bohemian to be practical. Theshow’s soundtrack featured JayZ’s “Picasso Baby” – the song he turned into performance art by allowing his improvisational skills as a rapper to unfold in a series of one-on-one encounters before an audience assembled in a New York gallery.
The performance and the resulting film showed the give-and-take of rap — its demand that one read an audience and respond to the energy in a room — merging with the fluid creativity of the visual artists, dancers, and actors. But it also explored the subtext of a millionaire businessman exploiting the modern ethos of art as a financial investment and as a form of braggadocio. It was art as art — but also as commerce and commercial.
The music, and all of its history, informed one’s understanding of the Chanel show. The spring 2014 presentation toyed with the age-old question of whether fashion can be art. (Perhaps the only reasonable answer is: sometimes.) It also reminded the audience of how fashionable art has become. Is there any designer of significant means who has not become a collector?
But ultimately, as the models marched by one Chanel bedecked guest after another, one couldn’t help but admire Lagerfeld’s skill at artful commerce.BEGIN SLIDESHOW
Most Viewed Stories
How Angelina Jolie Won the First Big Battle in Her Divorce
25 Famous Women on Being Alone
It’s Time to Get Over Your White Feelings and Start Taking Action for Black Lives
22 Intimate Lost Photos of Marilyn Monroe
Everything We Know About Brad Pitt’s Plane Incident
Jaden Smith on the Many Subtle Flavors of Water
Taylor Swift’s Squad Begged Kim Kardashian for Mercy
The National Nightmare Is Over: Kim Kardashian Will Vote for Hillary
Adam Levine and Behati Prinsloo Unveiled Their Baby on Instagram
The 6 Best Denim Shops on Etsy
From Our Partners
The Zoe Report
powered by PubExchange
The Cut’s Latest Fashion FeaturesCiara's Wedding Dress Was Too Big for the Chapel
To be fair, it was a 13 foot-long dress.You and Rihanna Will Both Want to Invest in Dior’s New Bag
It's got something for everyone.Polo Shirts Have Turned Their Back on Ryan Lochte
Along with his other major sponsors.Ryan Lochte Will No Longer Be Paid to Wear Tiny Bathing Suits
Speedo remains committed to transparency.Laura Brown Is the New Editor-in-Chief of InStyle
After 11 years at Harper’s Bazaar.Tyra Banks Is Going to Teach a Class on Smizing at Stanford
"If I see somebody not paying attention, I’m gonna call on them."This Floating Pier Is the Most Zen Installation Ever
Walking on water in Italy.Nation Is Appalled by Matt Lauer’s Nude Ankles During Ryan Lochte Interview
What’s the opposite of “Jeah”?8 People at the Life of Pablo Pop-up Explain Why Kanye West Is a God
"I mean, Kanye West is just Kanye West. There's not more or less you can say about Kanye West. He's just Mr. West!"A T-shirt Is Enough
Simplicity, versatility, and cool. What more could you want?
She took a perfect pencil dive off a 30-foot yacht.American Apparel Is Being Sued by Former Workers
As the company considers putting itself up for sale.A Gendered History of the Tailored Suit
From Marlon Brando to Coco Chanel.How Zendaya Developed Such Great Style at the Young Age of 19
The star's best looks from Disney to now.Proof That If You’re Chic Enough, a Little Federal Investigation Doesn’t Matter
Is this the best they could do?5,300-Year-Old Mummified Iceman Probably Would’ve Been a Street-Style Star
He had several different looks and was “pretty picky.”J.Crew Has Identified 226 Shades of Pink
Even more than there are shades of gray.Gigi and Bella Hadid Merch Is Now Somehow a Thing That Is Happening
Today in Hadidiana.Gird Your Loins for the Return of Yeezy to New York Fashion Week
The season approaches.This Indie Brand Had a Great Response to Ivanka Trump
When she bought one of their cuffs, they donated the proceeds to the Clinton campaign.