Chanel Paris Cosmopolite 2016/2017 Métiers d’Art show, presented at the Ritz Paris Hotel. More on chanel.com/-ParisCosmopolite-MetiersdArt
To glean the strategy behind Chanel’s no-expense-spared catwalk spectacular at the newly reopened Paris Ritz on Tuesday, look no further than the seating plan.
The brand’s president of fashion, Bruno Pavlovsky, placed at his right hand the French culture minister Audrey Azoulay, who wore an elegant red and black jacket in Chanel’s distinctive boucle tweed. At the next table was music producer Pharrell Williams, winner of ten Grammy awards, and French-Cuban musical duo Ibeyi, made up of 19-year-old twins Naomi and Lisa-Kaindé Díaz.
Williams and Lisa-Kaindé Díaz were also wearing boucle tweed. It was a bold statement of a brand which sees itself not just as a fashion house but as part of the fabric of French culture – and which, nonetheless, has ambitions on a modern global stage.
Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel’s vision was focussed on a specific style, but Karl Lagerfeld has spent 35 years expanding that point of view so that the double C logo is as much an image of France as the Eiffel Tower – or, indeed, the Paris Ritz.
The Paris Ritz, reopened after it was hit by a fire, has played a vivid role in the city’s history. The tearoom is named for onetime regular Marcel Proust; the bar for Ernest Hemingway, who attempted to personally liberate it from the Nazis on 25 August 1944. So strong are the associations between the Ritz and stylish living that the hotel has become an adjective in its own right. Ritzy is a byword for luxury – as is Chanel.
Coco Chanel lived at the hotel for 35 years. This is not an uncontroversial chapter of Chanel history, given that it was her links with the Vichy regime which allowed her to do so during the second world war, but Lagerfeld chose to celebrate it nonetheless by returning to her home to stage three catwalk shows in one day over lunch, high tea and dinner.
At the teatime show – dress code “naturally elegant” – tables were laden with silver platters of Proustian madeleines, florentines and tuile cigarettes, along with Perrier Jouët and the Ritz’s own blend of Earl Grey. The show was opened by Lily-Rose Depp, daughter of Johnny Depp and longtime Chanel model Vanessa Paradis, making her Chanel catwalk debut in a gold sequinned midi-length skirt and matching cropped top. Cara Delevingne followed with silk flowers in her hair, goofing the elegance of her ivory-tweed ensemble by pulling faces for the iPhone cameras as she weaved between the tables. The casting referenced cultural greats, as well as pretty faces: Levi Dylan, the grandson of Bob Dylan, was followed by Mick Jagger’s daughter Georgia May.
“Karl is not really a designer, he’s a researcher,” said Lagerfeld’s friend and longtime model Inès de la Fressange after the show. Each Chanel show riffs on a different aspect of the house, from Chanel’s interest in astrology to her passion for Scotland, but this was one of several recent shows which returned to the theme of Paris, Lagerfeld’s adopted home.
In March last year he recreated a Paris bistro for the ready to wear show, a theme which he said was intended to show solidarity with the spirit of the city in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks. Last December he decamped to Rome, only to recreate a Paris street as a theatrical set in the Cinecittà studios.
Actor Clémence Poésy said she was struck “by a feeling of freedom” at the Ritz show. “It reminded me of how Coco Chanel was the first to put shoulder straps on to handbags, so that women could use their hands,” she added.
In this show the handbags were worn cross-body, in the modern urban style. Shoes were either over-the-knee boots – a contemporary street style favourite – or laced 1940s cream brogues with a heel.
The clothes, with their drop-waists, louche sequins and nubbly, dressmaker tweeds, recalled the era when F Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald held court in the bar.
There was a sense of living it up – of putting on the Ritz, in the words of Irving Berlin. “The thing about the Ritz is that being here feels almost like it’s not real,” said Lisa-Kaindé Díaz after the show. “It’s like, the dream.”
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