Is Chanel finally catching up with the future? That’s certainly how it would seem as this morning’s spring/summer presentation was set in what appeared to be a giant server farm. Multiple racks of computer boards with lights blinking and multicolored cables stretching from here to there formed rows of data canyons. This was the background behind a fashion collection that was one of the most contemporary we’ve seen from creative director Karl Lagerfeld. The collection was, as always, large and varied, but there are still some significant trends worth noting.
Oh, but first we have to talk about how the show opened. Against a high-energy Donna Summer soundtrack, the prestigious position of being the first model out went to—a robot. At least, that’s what Lagerfeld wanted you to think. In reality, it was an anonymous model wearing a virtual reality headpiece and plastic gloves. There were two of them. What might be a little bit frightening is that as virtual reality begins to take hold and become popular, Lagerfeld’s vision may actually come true.
There are two primary sections to this season’s collection that can be identified by the technology theme: the grid and the cables. The grid is represented in a new set of tweeds utilized in some of the traditional house silhouettes. Lagerfeld plays with contrasting threads so as to create a more noticeable set of lines, some of which are raised, several having pieces of metallic fiber woven into the mix. He also makes frequent use of soft check prints throughout the collection. Some of these come dangerously close to looking like flannel, though, so they didn’t seem quite as popular. Quilted leather got everyone’s attention, though and that white thread on black leather representation of the grid may be the strongest of the set.
The cabling is represented by a brightly colored print that is one of the most exciting things I’ve seen in a Chanel collection in recent years. The print is bright, even though the base color is black. The colored lines feel electric, almost like neon but with a little more definition. There are some other prints with “glowing” lines forming a grid, but it is the more abstract print that really captures the imagination and invokes a sense of motion.
Of course, accessories are always a big part of any Chanel collection and this season has two new additions that are likely to be popular. The first is the Chanel bag that lights up like a portable Lite-Brite (for those of you old enough to actually remember that toy). These are a level of cool that is almost certain to be copied and likely to sell out before you can drive to the store. The second is the new shoe/boot. Karl’s going all flat this season with low, block-heeled pumps that have a broad tech-looking ankle strap. If models weren’t wearing that, they were wearing classic Chanel ballet slippers. High heels and wedges are completely out for this season.
There is one thing to strongly dislike from today’s presentation: ball caps worn sideways. No, it’s not cute. No, it’s not attractive. Yes, it makes one look less intelligent than they probably are. I didn’t care for the look 15 years ago and I see no reason to change my opinion just because the hat is blinged out with the Chanel logo. This is an absolutely stupid look for anyone and removes any sense of elegance from the looks.
Of final interest is the manner in which Lagerfeld shuffled out to take his final bow. Previous seasons have seen him walking the full runway route, often with muse Cara Delevigne on his arm. This morning, however, he literally shuffled from between the rows of servers, bowed and waved, then shuffled back. On one hand, the shuffle made him look a bit robotic and might very well have been intentional. At the same time, though, it made him appear more fragile and at 83 we can’t expect him to be bouncing around like Alexander Wang. One has to wonder if any thought has been given to who might dare to be his successor. This is a huge brand and much of its current success is because of Lagerfeld. There is reason to be concerned.
Such a strong collection is going to be popular when it hits stores next spring. In fact, if you see something you like you might want to let your local department store know so they can get orders in quickly. Many of these styles won’t sit on shelves long. Or you can pre-order online. That would be fitting, wouldn’t it?