We knew there was something glacial about the Chanel show as soon as we arrived at the massive venue. The enormous box in the middle of the room radiated frigid air. The programmes on the seats featured a fluffy polar bear.
The adrenalin of anticipation was the only thing keeping us warm.
We have come to expect more than just a catwalk show from Chanel every season. The audience comes for fashion writ large. The running theme on most Paris catwalks has been all about understatement: trimming the excess to fit a new mood of restraint. Not here. As our taxi driver succinctly explained after the show, ‘chez Chanel there is no crisis.’
But how would they top last season’s live performance by Lily Allen popping up out of the floor in a copy of Marie Antoinette’s barn. Easy. How about shipping in an iceberg? Oh how I would have loved to have been at the brainstorm session when someone floated that idea. Talk about blue sky thinking. Chances are I’d have been the one rocking with skeptical guffaws. (Yeah, right, an iceberg? What a bonkers idea: ha ha ha…..next?). I would also have been the one trying to make myself very small when Karl went ‘GENIUS! Get me a glacier….STAT!!!’
Turns out the enormous box was hermetically sealed maintaining a temperature of between -4 and 0 C°, to preserve the 240 tonnes of frozen snow (called "snice"….snow-ice) that had been shipped in from the people who make the Arctic Ice Hotels. Chanel hired 35 ice sculptors, who took 6 days to create the 8 meter iceberg.
The models emerged, sloshing through the melt water in galoshes and yeti boots. Hot water bottle handbags were hilarious but dear readers it was painful to see those delicious hems soaking up the slush. It took French insouciance to a whole new level.
In general, the impact was all in fur and fuzzy textures, but not a single animal pelt was lost in the making of these clothes. Every piece, from the fluffy yeti coats to the luxurious sculpted trims on tweed suits was a furry illusion: fake fur, baby soft mohair, downy feathers, Mongolian lambswool, tufted tweed, shredded chiffon.
Lagerfeld played with sculptural possibilities, teasing tweed into a cocoon cape that was accessorized with an ice cub clutch. He worked knits into fluffy cubist shapes, defining the waist with chunky rib. White mohair dresses were tinged a glacial blue.
He gave classic Chanel boucle shifts a decorative finish with gold fringe and dripping tassles of boucle yarn which looked like icicles. And he finished with a finale of cream and white ice queen dresses, sparkling with crystal embroidery and trailing feathered chiffon trains through the ankle deep water.
It was a classic fashion moment that in times like these, only Chanel could pull off.
- Paula Reed