PFW: CHANEL F/W 2014

I don’t like Karl Lagerfeld, but when genius happens it has to be acknowledged regardless of the source and the set for this morning’s Chanel show can only be described as pure marketing genius. Going with a theme of the Chanel Shopping Center, Lagerfeld turn the Grand Palais into a supermarket, complete with Chanel branded everything. Eggs, meat, produce, vegetables, soft drinks and even, catch this: Chanel Coco Flakes. With the doors opening a full hour before the show, guests had plenty of time to peruse the aisles and social media instantly lit up with tweets and pictures of the incredible display. If there was a detail missed, I can’t imagine what it was. Jaws dropped, people smiled, and then they pulled out their phones and started taking pictures as quickly as they could. Well before the first model ever set foot on a runway, this show was a success.

Not only does this win the award for most original set design, it quite likely also is the most expensive. I don’t even want to think how much it cost to create all this packaging and the packages are not empty; there are real pickles in those jars. But then, Chanel is raking in the cash faster than it can be counted these days, so I guess they have a little extra to spend. Remember several months ago when we were shown what at the time seemed to be gratuitous pictures of Karl visiting a grocery store for the first time in his life? Now, we understand exactly why he was making that trip.

The question, of course, is whether the clothes actually hold up to the hype, and to give them a fair consideration one needs to look at them apart from the setting. Cara Delevigne (IMG) was the first to enter the shopping aisle, wearing a sort of pink cropped-top sweat ensemble that looked as though mice had been making a feast of the fabrics for quite a while, leaving jagged holes all through the fabric. The shoes are cross trainers and over it all is a heavy wool coat with rounded shoulders that flows almost to the ankle. Oh, and there’s a belly chain and fingerless gloves. We’ve all seen this look at the grocery store, or at least one like it, and it probably didn’t cost what Chanel is going to charge for the same look. The next two looks were similar, though without the holes in the fabric. I can re-create this look, minus the coats, for less than $1o.

As seems typical of Lagerfeld’s recent creations, there are some designs that work and others that make one wonder if the old man needs to be committed to an asylum (don’t get me started on the pink feathers). Heavy wool suits that refer back heavily to some of Coco’s original designs are spot-on wonderful, even if they might be a bit toasty in certain indoor environments. Personally, I’d leave off the pants/leggings he pairs with them, but that’s going to be a personal choice. The jumper made of that same heavy wool? While I’m sure it is abundantly warm, it looks like something made for a construction worker, and the fabric is going to snag much to easily to wear to a real construction site, as though construction workers can afford Chanel.

One silhouette in particular is likely to be a sure winner. Several tops and a few dresses employ a look that is cinched in some manner at the waist, rather corset-like, while being rather voluminous from the bust up, several sporting pockets. Karl uses this silhouette in a variety of ways throughout the collection, and almost every time the effect is visually stunning. Granted, on these A-cup models the enhanced bust line is lost a bit, but for average sized women this is a killer silhouette that can’t help but be popular.

Large yarn knit sweaters are in abundance in this collection, done with multi-colored yarn in most cases, and styled perfectly for the season without giving in to too many trends. We’ve seen an abundance of over-sized sweaters, which are certainly nice and comfortable, but these are more fitted, more flattering to the figure, while not giving up anything in the warmth department. Again, I’m a little concerned that, especially indoors, these heavy yarns might get a little toasty, especially when paired with one of the cropped wool jackets. Some common sense and care is going to be required in wearing these styles, but the looks are wonderful.

Perhaps what makes this collection more palatable to old fogies like me is that, for the first time in several seasons, Karl goes back and makes the most of some of Coco’s trademark designs. Her cropped jacket is everywhere in this collection, modified to be sure, but the silhouette is unmistakably Coco’s.  There’s one pink tweed suit especially that just screams late 50’s-early 60’s Chanel and even with the modernized treatment it is still an amazing ensemble. Nods to the label’s foundation like that make some of the more questionable moves, like those hole-filled sweats, a little more easy to let pass as just being trendy.

I’m running long, and could seriously go on at extreme length about this collection (there are so many details!), but we must take time to talk about those boots … er, shoes … uhm … snoots? The knee-high lace-up sneakers may well be the hands-down winner of the entire collection. We’ve seen a lot of boots this season, but none are going to be as comfortable, as cross-situational, and as multi-purposed as these. The uppers range from sporty to formal, while the base remains 100% athletic wear. Sure, one is probably going to pay in the neighborhood of $600 or more for these boots, but you are quite likely going to wear them everywhere. My only concern would be that some of the more metallic looks may not fare well with moisture, but the leather uppers should do quite well.

This is also one of the largest collections we’ve seen from Chanel in recent memory, which means there’s no way I can begin to cover all the styles. Suffice it to say that there are some spectacular duds that just failed, but more than half the collection is wearable and within that half are some looks that may very well become classics. Finally, Chanel is worth shopping again and worth wearing to go shopping. Circle, full.

Chanel Ready To Wear Fall Winter 2014 Paris

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