Monday, September 24, 2012

2012 Chanel

Beneath the soaring glass domes of the Grand Palais, the Chanel set transported us to the undersea world of Karl Lagerfeld; an aquatic wonderland of gleaming white stingrays and sea horses adrift amongst coral branches and shells on a sandy sea bed. Lagerfeld had promised “the ground of the sea, but in a very poetic way,” and his models, meandering through this dramatic set to a techno soundtrack abstracted from Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries,” looked like magical deep-sea sirens, from the pearls scattered in their hair to the sea- urchin shells that propped up the heels of their sandals.

Lagerfeld deconstructed some of the house symbols. Coco’s iconic pearls were used as buttons or as belts to girdle his round-shouldered dresses, and Lagerfeld banished her signature braid trims altogether in place of fine black ribbon set in geometric blocks across pale suiting, a detail inspired by the “fabric paintings” of German abstract artist Blinky Palermo that he had admired in a recent exhibition at Dia.

Lagerfeld worked with innovative techno fabrics to create the effect of light through water. Airy waffle-textured organzas and iridescent synthetics, open-weave tweeds and knits, and a palette of sea foam, shell pink, and mother-of-pearl (anchored with the inevitable black) created an otherworldly effect.

And the details brought a whisper of the haute couture to the ready-to-wear season; changeante organza ribbons were appliqu├ęd to trail across little shift dresses like seaweed swaying in a riptide; silvery embroideries or a frosting of nacreous sequins spilled down black dresses like the phosphorescence on a moonlit sea.

Swimsuits were anchored by pearl clasps or veiled in clear plastic “virtual jackets” printed with a tracery of fine black swirling lines like seaweed washed up on a seashore.

The technical mastery of this house was also revealed in the elaborate pleating and draping techniques that transformed diaphanous organza and (specially commissioned) seaweed motif lace into shapes and formations that recalled corals, seashells, and waving underwater algae, and provided the most complex takes on the pleated skirts that have become such a strong trend of the season.

As the final short evening dresses appeared (frothed with ruffles at the hips like lightweight eighteenth-century panniers—or reduced to a single flounce), a giant oyster shell opened to reveal Florence Welch (in a silvery dress trailing strands of seaweed ribbon), whose plangent tones brought the show to a spectacular end.

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