Last night Tokyo got well and truly Chanel-ed. An aircraft hanger sized venue, a massive matt silver box, was built in the ancient Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. Think of it as Tokyo's Hyde Park, but as one of the only green spaces in a city of 33 million people, it's a pretty special place.
All the foreign guests at the 3 day Chanel-tastic Tokyo event have been hoping we'd get to see the first cherry blossom. It's such a big deal here that there is a special cherry blossom forecast and we've been following the 'cherry blossom front' as it creeps closer to the city. But we had resigned ourselves to being about a week too early and the only flowering trees we had seen were dismissed by our guide as 'nothing to get excited about....only plum.'
But as we walked through the Shinjuku Gyoen Gardens last night, guess what? There was distinct evidence of cherry. Hurrayyyy! OK, so it wasn't exactly a 'blizzard of blossom' for which the Japanese take a day off work and pack a sake picnic. But it was enough! On her way into the show, Clemence Poesy chucked off her coat and ducked under a tree looking like she was wearing it like a big Philip Treacy hat. 'I am so excited we are getting to see this,' she laughed.
Chanel Couture - Take 2
Inside the venue, Chanel had built the aeroplane set that had us all a twitter at the January couture show in Paris. Same double C carpet, same clouds skudding across the roof lights, same aeroplane seats and drinks trolley. But for Tokyo, it was even bigger. A capacity crowd of 400 people watched 60 models show the summer 2012 couture show.
Carine Roitfeld was back in her front row (or in this case, aisle) seat, after the success of the book launch the night before. 'I haven't been to Tokyo for several years. I am so excited to be here.' Most books are years in the making. This Little Black Jacket book that she and Karl did together has been turned around in a matter of months: more like a glossy magazine schedule than a coffee table tome.
'Karl is quick, he doesn't hang around,' she said. 'And I think the book really shows how good he is at capturing portraits. There is a sensitivity there that has really got to the heart of some of those people. He is smart because he shoots really fast. He doesn't hang around shooting lots of options: 3 or 4 frames and that's it. He doesn't sap the energy. Everyone left this shoot with a smile on their faces.'
Alice Dellal, one of the latest additions to the roster of Chanel ambassadors was also in her aisle seat. She was double jobbing as a contributor to French magazine, L'Officiel, shooting her own photo diary of the three day event. 'If I learned anything from shooting with Karl it's to be get on with it. Most photographers know they have got what they want in the first few shots and its tedious when they shoot on and on and on. Karl is fast. That was the most important tip I have taken from him.'
Sarah Jessica Parker and Vanessa Paradis
Meanwhile Sarah Jessica Parker, further up the gangway, doing her best to give the slip to anyone who wanted to talk to her, suffered the mother of all wardrobe malfunctions and split the zip up the back of her couture dress, flashing the fashion show audience she had been so assiduously trying to avoid and being forced to hold her dress together until a gallant chap offered her his jacket.
It's rare to ever get a second look at a fashion show. The routine is: you see it, you rush off to the next one. I had forgotten how fantastic those jewelled tights and shoulder grazing drop earrings were. I'd forgotten how the sparkling cocktail dresses in a full spectrum of blues had looked like every colour of the sky. I'd also forgotten how much I loved an evening dress with a slouchy pocket.
Chanel chose Tokyo for this event as a show of support for a country that is still struggling to recover from one of its greatest natural disasters. One couture show may not save anyone's life or livelihood, but the excited buzz around all the events has been inspiring. And ten minutes of unadulterated, sequined and feather trimmed escapism at a Chanel couture show was priceless.
by Paula Reed in Tokyo