“Fashion is part of the events of our times,” declared Karl Lagerfeld about the Zen-like, eco-conscious serenity of the Chanel Haute Couture collection in the Grand Palais. Reacting to the times (especially in an age as troubled as ours) can also mean needing to detach from them, fashion-mindfulness equated with luxury in this case. So where last October there was the high-tech, noisy hurly-burly of the Chanel Airport, now there were the lush green lawns of a minimalist garden, water lily ponds, a slatted wood pavilion, and plenty of space and calm to contemplate it all under simulated blue skies. It seemed incredible that the same venue had been transformed into a convincing casino for the last couture show—a tribute to the set-design genius at Chanel—and just as incredible that this time, the gambling chips had been replaced by . . . wood chips.
You read correctly: Wood chips were used as beading, paillettes, and 3-D frills among techniques involving recycled paper and organic woven yarn. The wedding look—a dreamy tufted hoodie, dress, and train—was all “made from wild cotton,” said Lagerfeld, quipping, “This is high-fashion ecology. It must not look like some sloppy demonstration!”
A case could be built for haute couture being the most non-environmentally impactful branch of clothing production, anyway. It’s handmade, takes infinite hours of work, and potentially lasts a lifetime, the antithesis of fast fashion’s notorious processes and disposability. As the show unfolded, it became, in a way, a meditation on the timeless validity of Chanel’s principles: pale bouclé suits, attenuated in the skirt, puffed in the sleeve, and with set-away collars; a movement of classic navy and white (there was a lovely white-collared classic French Gigi-at-school dress); and passages of languid pearly charmeuse and black cocktailwear.
But it was the evening that soared from the moment Lagerfeld started to introduce flecks of gold into the suiting. An incredible jacket and skirt made completely of gold and black geometric paillettes, a narrow streak of wonderment worn by Jamie Bochert, passed by, succeeded by airy lamé capes, a haze of gold and sparkle, floating from the shoulders of white pantsuits. It would take a much closer look to understand the technical wizardry and the actual degree of ecological soundness embedded in these clothes. That’s what clients will come to understand when they go up to the Rue Cambon for their fittings. It may be that they won’t be swayed one way or the other by the trouble Chanel took to source some of its materials this season.
What surely matters at a time like this, even to the superrich, is whether these clothes have the built-in sustainability of another sort: Will they look just as beautiful and valid five or 10 years from now? Answer: Chosen well, yes. In another season, Karl and Chanel will doubtless have moved swiftly on from talking about ecology. Still, one thing’s absolutely for certain: While the Grand Palais turf goes to compost and the temporary pavilion wood is repurposed, the precious clothes on this runway will never be destined to end their lives in a landfill.
It is said (or I was told) that Chanel’s Pre-Spring collection (which comes out in the months before Cruise and Spring-Summer collections proper) is partly inspired by the French luxury house’s Haute Couture collection, which would explain the appearance of these lucky charm-themed pieces from wallets to clutches.
And while it’s not a big collection (the other themes for Pre-Spring 2016 seem to be denim and iridescent pastels), it should satisfy most any Chanel fan, from the ever-elusive WOC and a long zipped wallet in aged calfskin decorated in the most adorable of charms from a deck of cards to a roulette wheel.
Then there are the more pricey pieces, on the left, a cube-shaped (I’m assuming it’s inspired by a dice) minaudiere that’s topped with a leather chain-linked sling and on the right, a playing card minaudiere that comes adorned with a portrait for Coco Chanel that’s also decorated with pearls, hearts and the CC logo. Very pretty, so sweet and really Chanel if you ask me.
We’ve seen airport terminals and icebergs, fully stocked grocery stores and casinos, but for Chanel’s spring 2016 couture collection, Karl Lagerfeld did the unthinkable. He went green. With his eyes set on nature in both a mico and macro sense, Lagerfeld introduced sustainability into the couture conversation this season, presenting a collection built around organic and recycled materials set within the confines of a lush, minimalist garden. But whereas eco-driven fashion once had a reputation of being sloppy and all together unimaginative, Lagerfeld’s offerings read not only eco-friendly, but also downright beautiful.
Stepping out of a wooden, dollhouse-like structure – which of course, would be recycled following the show – models including Kendall Jenner, Lindsey Wixson, Mariacarla Boscono and Gigi Hadid, emerged surrounded by cedar trees and clear blue skies overhead. The sartorial aesthetic, too, was easy and breezy: think semi-sheer blouses worn with neatly tailored pencil skirts, signature tweed twin sets updated with rounded sleeves and calf-grazing hemlines, and items crafted from raffia and twine. Elsewhere, fabrics, including wild cotton and linen, were embroidered with wood shavings, tiles or patterns of bees, birds and flowers, embedding looks with an overall ecological soundness. Those more practical pieces did however, eventually give way to a range of elegant evening looks, the most stunning of which featured geometric lace, textured embroidery or as in the case of Lagerfeld’s wedding gown, an actual hood. In keeping with the theme of sustainability, every look was treated to the same shoe silhouette – a round-toe cork wedge with a curved heel – while handbags expanded that view by appealing to the selfie generation with a loosely tied belt bag just big enough to fit one’s iPhone or tablet. Whether this is just a timely trend or a defining moment in the industry has yet to be determined. One thing remains abundantly clear though: This is one collection that is bound to be recycled (sartorially speaking that is) for years to come.