Chanel devotees have come to expect just a wee bit of theatre in the French house’s runway shows. That includes massive rocket ships flying to the moon and a live women’s protest march led by Gisele Bündchen and Cara Delevingne for the Spring 2015 show. In this hippie moment, Chanel jackets were turned into hobo bags and protest slogans were splayed across minauderies that read Make fashion not war, Votez Coco, and Feministe mais feminine. How about a Supermarché full of Chanel-branded household goods such as detergent, ketchup, and—of course—great bags, for Fall 2014? King Karl has even staged not one but at least three airline-themed shows, one of which included a real Chanel jet. Another re-created the chicest terminal on Earth.
CR looks back at all of the crazy chic ways that Karl Lagerfeld has re-invented some of the house’s classic accessories, such as the 2.55 bag, black-cap toe shoes, pearls, and the traditional boater hat.
While massive in scale and design compared to most sets, Chanel’s leaf strewn, tree-lined runway for Fall 2018 was serene and subdued compared to Lagerfeld’s recent spectaculars. It was fitting as most of the collection was scaled back as if getting to the root of a proper fall wardrobe and what that should entail. This season’s bags, such as the 31, were made to hold everything from a laptop to ballet flats but, alas, with plenty of low-heeled boots on the runway, there is most likely no need for those this season.
In 2005 before the Grand Palais reopened to the public, Chanel started showing their ready-to-wear collections in the historic structure and runway shows became larger than life. After all, the building was constructed for the purpose of the Universelle Exposition of 1900 (World’s Fair) and other large-scale exhibits. The space lent itself to the time Karl put a giant iceberg on the runway for Fall 2010 or in another a huge spinning LED globe (which became playful round Lucite bags) that was lit up everywhere there was a Chanel boutique. As the runways became conversations pieces, so did the accessories.
The designer has always had a penchant for having the theme of venue influence his ready-to-wear. For Spring 2009, the designer hosted a good old romp in the proverbial hay, in which he made the space a giant barn replete with designer burlap sacks, literally. Furry Eskimo-style boots sloshed along that wet runway—made from iceberg melting off—for Fall 2010. And for Spring 2012, he explored a larger body of water as the Grand Palais was turned into a giant underwater set complete with gigantic pearls, shells, and the odd sea horse. Lagerfeld went back to the future in Spring 2013 with a giant “hoola-hoop”—beach totes riffed on a solar panel. His Spring 2017 show also took look at the computer world with models wearing Daft Punk helmets walking through a gigantic mainframe server carrying robot and wire circuitry handbags.
With Spring 2018’s natural beauty of the Gorges du Verdon waterfalls gushing through the Grand Palais—complete with science-at-work as plastic rain hats flew off models’ heads—it seemed that hijinks and pure fun on a runway couldn’t get any more over the top.
Lagerfeld has also taken branded bags to the extreme. For his Fall 2014 show, up-for-sale was a Chanel shopping basket bag and others encased in plastic shrink-wrapped a à la pound of hamburger from the meat section. In another collection, Spring 2009, he made the chicest shopping totes, which were produced as leather bags meant to resemble the house’s own shopping bags, given upon purchase at a Chanel boutique. He outdid himself the following season, Fall 2009, with a quilted mini 2.55 bags inside hard plastic packaging typically used on toys or cosmetics.
Chanel airways would make even those afraid of flying book a flight from the nearest airport. Who could forget Spring 2016, with the light-up sandals and coordinated luggage sets complete with Chanel-logo’d luggage carts? A sandal constructed to look like a cockpit and rivet and bolted metallic leather resembled the fuselage of a jet airliner. And, of course, great aviators but where in the world were those ladies heading on Air Chanel? Art Basel Chanel, no doubt! For Spring 2014, Lagerfeld created his own “art” works—grand scale paintings and sculptures of the house motifs; giant bottle of Chanel No. 5 pray tell? The must-have takeaway was a mixed-medium, a la Jean Michel Basquiat backpack or bags made from the remnants of an art easel’s leftovers in the studio.
All that traveling makes even a fashionista hungry so, next stop? The Chanel Fall 2015 brasserie of course! Guests, many of which had their own bistro-style seating downed a full brasseries style breakfast pre-show, sidled up to the bar where post-show models took a moment to bask in the typical Parisian haunt. A Brasserie menu, a woven chair, plates, a spoon, and pearl motif all become bags. A Chanel sweater doubled as a backpack paired with clothes that had newspaper quilting or patterns that resembled typical tiled floors.
But Karl is not one to get stuck in the past or on holiday, though he regularly attributes his dreams and childhood as a source of his wild inspiration. In several shows, including this most recent one, he recalls life in Germany. His dreams have taken him and the world on a most fantastic voyage these past 35 years. While space seemed to be Karl’s ultimate travel destination, Chanel routinely takes its Resort show on the road and for example, trips to Dubai and Havana yielding gas-can bags and Cuban cigar box bags. But that is another trip altogether.END
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