Forget Paris in the spring time, for me it’s all about Paris at Christmas time, especially if Chanel is involved. On Tuesday night they held their Paris/Byzance Pre-Fall 2011 collection in the famous 31 Rue Cambon salon, and while it was cold and wet outside, it was anything but inside. As the inspiration for the collection was the Byzantine Empire, the walls were covered in gold sequins, the floor with woven rugs, and instead of tiny chairs (that we have to squeeze ourselves onto at so many other shows), Chanel gave us the option to lounge on scatter cushions and relax. US Vogue’s Andre Leon Talley took full advantage of that and reclined as he greeted Chanel ‘It’ Lady – girl doesn’t do her justice - Ines de la Fressange and her stunning daughters.
Naturally Diane Kruger was there, as she seems to be Karl’s favourite accessory at the moment, with her boyfriend, Joshua Jackson, who stood back patiently as photographers snapped at Diane in a vintage Chanel black dress and boots. All the regular (beautiful) faces were in attendance including Vanessa Paradis, Clemence Poesy, Caroline Sieber and Charlotte Casiraghi, alongside more unusual guests…hello, Marianne Faithfull!
But as soon as there was the sound of pearls clashing, as the first model emerged from a beaded curtain, everyone sat up and took notice.
It was Chanel meets the exotic, as bohemian as they get, but with oomphs of decadence and luxury. Traditional ancient togas and tunics were clearly an inspiration, but there was nothing retro about a tweed dress, laced with a gold thread, and pinned on the shoulder with the most exquisite jewellery. The accessories, beading and precious and semi-precious details were key and the focus of the collection.
The models, including Lindsey Wixson, were dripping in jewellery, but while none of it was understated, it didn’t seem over the top either – in fact it made me want to pull on all my jewellery again, after streamlining my look for the season. Then there was Freja Beha's look in jumbo cords in a jewel blue, teamed with a heavily embellished white shirt.
Yes, it's Freja, and yes, she does make everything she wears look enviably cool, but there was something so modern about it, especially as it was finished with flat gladiator sandals pretty enough to be worn as jewels themselves. This was a collection that practically had bells on, yet it was perfectly refined and nothing felt like detail for detail's sake - from the beaded, heeled boots right up to the gold headband and all the gems inbetween - and that is something only Karl Lagerfeld can do!
- Kay Barron