Another show: another show-stopping set from Chanel. This year, already, we have kicked back in a Chanel ‘jumbo jet’ (Paris, couture, January), taken our seats in a stalactite sprouting dream scene (Paris, ready to wear, March), slipped back onto the ‘jumbo’ for another leg of the couture journey (Couture, Tokyo, May), taken a promenade in the gardens at Versailles (Cruise Collection, June). And in early July, as Paris prepares for the Bastille Day celebrations, we find ourselves back in the Grand Palais in a cavernous rendering of one of the chicest conservatories you have ever seen, complete with flowering camelia bushes, white Lloyd Loom chairs and little tea tables groaning with macaroons and fruit jellies.
The Winter 2012 Couture collection was named ‘New Vintage’, a reference to the timelessness of style and clothes that outlast the ephemerality of seasonal fashion. If ever a label worked hard on its investment value, it is Chanel. Coco once said, “Innovation! One cannot be forever innovating. I want to create classics”. And she succeeded. If the measure of success is what timeless wardrobe icon most readily springs to mind, I wager the Chanel suit and the little black dress are what most of us would come up with first. Both are pillars of the wardrobe she popularized, and both retain their gilt edged classic status.
The show started with an exploration of tweed: an iconic fabric of the house. Tweed is to Chanel as chocolate sauce is to ice cream. You can, of course, have one without the other but they are so much better together. Big soft shouldered jackets in chunky 3D tweeds, softened with combed woolen fringing at the cuff or a trim of pleated chiffon,were layered over simple A line skirts for day and reappeared over long slim skirts for evening.
Hair was covered in crocheted snoods; hands covered in fingerless leather gloves; and squishy tweed clutch bags had chain handles to slip your palm through.
A drop waisted ballerina length black velvet shirt dress with a waist cinching metallic leather belt was a romantic update of the LBD. And was it Karl’s new love, his now famous kitten, the fluffy Choupette, who was inspiring the feathered wing like shoulders on evening dresses, the pink furry pom pom embroideries and the billowy soft bridal gown embroidered from shoulder to hem with ostrich feathers.
Rose strewn tulle gowns and a simple crepe peasant blouse over a heavily embroidered floral skirt upped the level of girlish romance. While an ombre sequined pygama suit and embroidered kaftan ushered in some bohemian luxury.
In the realms of haute couture, the modern collector of new vintage could do a lot worse than let Karl be her guide.
by Paula Reed in Paris
For more Couture action - including who's wearing what on the FROW and Raf Simons' Dior debut - click here.