Wednesday 19 October 2016

Cyborgs and Chanel's New World Order in Paris

Chanel creative director Karl Lagerfeld with Lily-Rose Depp at his SS17 ready-to-wear show in Paris. Tap photographs for a slideshow of the collection.

Each season Karl Lagerfeld creates Chanel collections that seduce and polarise new generations of the jeunesse dorée. His latest work, shown in Paris earlier this month, for Spring/Summer 2017 was set in a digital world with two cyborgs opening the show, both a commentary on society's obsession with new technology, followed by a brilliant yet wearable collection that seemed both contemporary and retro with a dash of Eighties futurism, writes Jeanne-Marie Cilento

Cyborgs opened the show at the Chanel Data Center
KARL Lagerfeld, brings an acute mind and a fulsome creativity to his collections that make his shows sought after each season in Paris. Chanel’s creative director since 1983, Lagerfeld has always loved the latest technology, he looks to the future and doesn't like nostalgia yet has an expansive knowledge and passion for the history of design, architecture and fashion. As a designer, he likes to test the technical skills of the Chanel ateliers to their limits with new techniques and materials. Under the great, soaring glass roof of the Grand Palais with dappled sunlight filtering onto the catwalk, Karl Lagerfield created for his latest ready-to-wear show, what he called the Chanel Data Center: a white digital world with the flashing lights of computer servers alongside the runway and trolleys of red, yellow and blue cables.

The great, soaring roof of the Grand Palais  
A master of creating fashion spectacle, two be suited models in bouclé tweed wearing white robot helmets strode onto the runway to Patrick Cowley's electro remix of Donna Summer’s I Feel Love. Walking out to the disco beat, the models with rather charming robotic faces seemed inspired by the broad features of Coco Chanel. The two cyborgs introduced a surprisingly wearable show full of brilliant colour with classic tweed suits updated by vivid, neon hues and the romantic whimsy of lacy, pale pink wisps of lingerie.

"Even if you don't like the idea, technology rules the world because it changes the world and has made many things easier,'' said Lagerfeld before presenting his collection. "My idea is to show the most iconic jacket on a creature of an unknown future. It means that Chanel is timeless and as the French say immortel. The data centre is something of our time and suggests the idea of the modern woman whatever the time, the century or the circumstances are. It is something I felt, I like the idea and translated it. But it is not technology in a cold way, it is 'intimate technology' ~ armour for the outside world ~ and something much more refined for the private world." Lagerfeld's inspiration for the catwalk was a vision of a woman walking through kilometres of cables, metallic racks and computer cabinets, a mistress of the digital universe.
Chanel Home Girl: fluid and comfortable
The whole collection had a feeling of a free-wheeling, comfortable modernity that felt both contemporary, retro and futuristic at the same time. But Lagerfield's future aesthetic has a certain playful, Eighties whimsy (a thread that ran through other SS17 shows in Paris including Anthony Vaccarello's debut at YSL) than a hard-edged, nihilistic vision of tomorrow. "Without the human hand, without delicacy and savoir-faire, nothing would be possible,'' says Lagerfield. "After all, don’t two robots wearing Chanel suits prove, perhaps, that more than any technological breakthrough, it is femininity that truly transcends time?" The designer believes that in an ultra-technological world our daily life is increasingly 'dematerialised', he wants to put humans back at the centre of everything, making what he calls Intimate Technology the theme of his new collection.
One of Chanel's new bags with flashing LEDs 
The designer played with digital motifs creating a beaded top embroidered like a motherboard, graphic prints that looked like vivid screen savers and hand bags flashing inside with the interlocking CC logo created by LED lights. There was a jaunty 1980s home girl vibe with side ponytails and sideways baseball caps perched with the peak to the left: "Today, caps are what people wear the most and so I had to make a Chanel version of that and wear it in a different way on the side, in a way it looks really like a refined hat," Lagerfield explains. Monochrome tweeds were combined with neon hues and worn with large retro Eighties gold earrings and long pendant chains embellished with camellias and held on with a snap hook. The Chanel jackets were more fluid and less form-fitting and the checks a little bigger than usual. The collection's shoes were mostly flat or with a low heel with broad cross over straps.

Francis Bean Cobain at the Chanel show
Lagerfield not only enjoys the latest technology but loves featuring the jeunesse dorée in his campaigns for Chanel. This season, his front row included the Chanel's ambassadors, the beguiling Lily-Rose Depp, Anna Mouglalis, Gaspard Ulliel and Caroline de Maigret alongside American singers Usher and Young Thug. Plus French actress Alma Jodorowsky, Chinese actresses Bai Bai He and Sandra Ma and the young Japanese Nana Komatsu. Chanel's connection with the young and the future was put into material form with new details and new fabrics in the SS17 collection. For example, touch fasteners replace buttons, braiding becomes a thick jersey cable, woven multi-coloured tweeds include rubber strands and vinyl strips, cotton, denim and wool threads line up like electronic cables, collars and cuffs are swathed in embossed translucent gauze.

Brilliant colour as a counterpoint to pastels
There are bursts of colour with backgrounds of blue, red, yellow, pink, purple, black and navy and a mix of pastels and electric shades. The home-girl caps are in silk or tweed while the sleek clutch bags are made of perforated silver leather. The unlined jackets and big coats are made to be as light as knitwear and are worn over long skirts and pleated blouses. Thrown over the negligees are tweed jackets with rounded shoulders, long sleeves and wide lapels and even a pair of culottes zipped at the front and back. Blouses combine sequins that look like electronic components and evening gowns had voluminous sunray pleats, trimmed with marabout. Asymmetrical jackets are worn with zip-up skirts with flat pleats that reveal silk and lace shorts beneath. Like a long necklace, the new Gabrielle bag has double straps slipped on around the head like a sweater, and bordering the neck and shoulders. Cotton voile is used for coats and dresses, with ruffled edged camellias, a full skirt is embellished with an entirely pleated camellia.

Long silk dresses added a feminine touch
The technology and motifs inspired by the digital world in the show were made softer by blouses with ruffled cuffs and long silk dresses. Silk, lace and crepe georgette were in subtle hues of powder, pale pink, candy pink, blush and peach with a contrast of midnight blue. "The idea behind that is a fluid femininity. It is not sexy lingerie, it is not agressive, it is flesh coloured and there is something poetic about this colour," Lagerfeld says. Under slips and negligees were tailored with flat or accordion pleats and shell guipure lace petticoats and pyjama trousers in silk and lace were worn as daywear. For this collection, the couturier created the delicate lingerie ~ underwear as outerwear ~ as a counterpoint to the reality of a harsher, more automated, contemporary world.
See below video for more photographs of the Chanel collection and new accessories

Finale of the collection at the Grand Palais in Paris
Home girl in contemporary, fluid version of the traditional Chanel tweed suit, with cap and long pendant
Details of the robust knit jacket and new bracelet
 Bright pink fasteners added a dash of colour to a stylish tweed trouser suit
The Chanel camellia on a navy and dark red woven top 

The finale of the SS17 collection in Paris
Pale pink lace was a counterpoint to the harder edged digital motifs 
Pearl-encrusted pendant on an embossed, long silk dress
Lacy bomber jacket and pink skirt with low-heeled shoes
New Chanel hand bag in fuchsia with gold details

Strong contrasts of boxy, tweed jacket and delicate silk
Digital inspirations for the new accessories
Flowing lines, chunky jewellery and long pendants added to the sense of freewheeling comfort
 The Eighties had a comeback with big, decorative earrings
Strong colour and black contrasts made an interesting counterpoint to the pastel pink confections of silk and lace
Black and white elegance evokes Lagerfeld's masterful capacity as a designer

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