Chanel needs no introduction when it comes to haute couture. With 11 Metiers d’Art satellites that form part of its coterie of couture arts and craft, the revered French house is all about the preservation of skills and continuation of the art of fashion. So, when Karl Lagerfeld decided to take the unseen petites mains from the Chanel Haute Couture ateliers to the catwalk, it certainly made sense. Everything from these couture workshops were transported to the Grand Palais—well known as the House’s space of choice for its grandiose, larger-than-life runway shows.
In a circular space which had the audience looking directly at the petites mains as they toiled on the collection—stitching, sewing, pressing and embroidering works of fabulousness—the audience felt like voyeurs watching the actual process of creation. And what splendid creations they were? The charming tweed culotte-suits at the start were actually hand embroidered thread on fabric to create the illusion of this French House’s signature material. And Karl does that just so well. Irreverence could well be his middle name with his innate ability to take the codes of the House and turn them on their head. But, with a craft like couture, Karl ditched all theatrics and camp for a collection that was sublime in its execution, silhouettes and finesse. Shoulders were the main highlight: They came bevelled and chiselled like a marble sculpture without any padding whatsoever. It was a genius in tailoring—which explains why seeing the craft actually being made in front of you was a true delight.
The main component of Chanel couture is the intricate details and the structure that Karl likes. References to a renaissance past were there with hobble skirts and generous tunics that turn the wearer into a work of art. Sequins upon sequins and 3D embroidery made each piece so splendid in shape and form, you almost didn’t need anything else to make an entrance. But of course, Chanel’s fine High Jewellery pieces were also there to tempt the well-to-do to reach deeper into their pockets. A collection held at Coco Chanel’s private suite in the newly renovated Ritz was a celebration of wheat. Called Les Blés de Chanel, an extravagant display of gold-and-silver dipped wheat by artist Gad Weil across the concrete plains of the Place Vendôme set the scene for what’s in store at the hotel.
Incredible jewels shaped into bunches of golden wheat (yellow diamonds, sapphires, tourmalines and spinels of gargantuan carats) were crafted into delicious necklaces, brooches, earrings, bracelets and rings. While most of the world saw the spectacle of Chanel’s couture drama at the Grand Palais, it was the real high-yield Chanel customers who saw the jewels, the show, the ateliers and the attentive needs to all their desires that makes Chanel such a well-rounded house for couture and all its splendid surroundings. As Karl walked the finale hand in hand with the four heads of the Chanel Haute Couture ateliers (two tailleur ateliers and two flou ateliers), it was a triumphant reminder that the double C universe might be the genius of one man’s vision, but it’s the execution of a team of experts that makes this French house so successful and relevant in this age of luxury.
Watch the Chanel haute couture fall/winter 2016 show below:
By Kenneth Goh