In politics, a rose garden strategy refers to an incumbent candidate using the trappings of office to project an aura of power for the purpose of re-election. Karl Lagerfeld, who has presided over Chanel with an air of kingly invincibility since 1983, has been using the method for years.
The awe-inspiring catwalk shows he stages for Chanel each fashion week – think space rockets that actually take off, full-size replicas of the Eiffel Tower, real icebergs – have successfully quelled any desire for change by inspiring shock, awe and simple devotion.
For Chanel’s summer 2018 haute couture collection, the rose garden was literal. Inside the Grand Palais in Paris, a formal garden with lush lawns, a fountain and fetchingly mossed urns formed the centrepiece to a bowered catwalk that ran beneath a maze of leaf-green trellising, canopied by roses and flanked by stone benches for the audience.
The show began, in reassuring Chanel tradition, with tweed bouclé suits. This season they came in glistening, car-sweet colours: lime green, raspberry pink and Parma violet. Drop-waisted silhouettes gave a chic reminder of the Coco era of Chanel, while snug ankle boots with low Perspex heels brought the look in line with the contemporary way of wearing Chanel. Singer Rita Ora, in the front row, was wearing her bouclé tweed dress with a Chanel bum bag and trainers.
As the collection moved from daywear to evening, flowers bloomed everywhere. A knife-pleated white crepe blouse was teamed with a silk ball-skirt handpainted with blowsy roses.
Kaia Gerber, the daughter of Cindy Crawford and a Lagerfeld favourite with whom a design collaboration is planned for his own line, wore a cocktail dress of pale pink ostrich feathers packed tight as rosebuds. Every model wore a pastel flower crown, atop a miniature black veil that cut through the sweetness with a touch of Kahlo-esque side-eye. Even the fingerless gloves, a Chanel in-joke nodding to Lagerfeld’s signature accessory, were encrusted with floral embroidery.
The bride and white jeans-clad pageboy who closed the show were upstaged by the look everyone wanted to see. After two decades of maintaining an unchanging image with his neat pompadour, Karl Lagerfeld this week unveiled a new image, with less coiffed hair and a snowy beard that has drawn comparison with Jeremy Corbyn. The game plan behind this surprising look from the world’s most sophisticated image maker is, at the time of going to press, unknown.
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