Coco Chanel said that “in order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different”. Karl Lagerfeld, designer of the house she founded, has kept Chanel at the top of the fashion tree for three decades by applying this maxim every time he stages a catwalk show.
Famous faces on the front row are old news; celebrities on the catwalk have been seen many times before. And so for Paris fashion week, Lagerfeld ramped up the “Hollywoodification” of fashion yet again by having Julianne Moore, Kristen Stewart, Vanessa Paradis and Lily Collins act a scene in a make-believe casino in the middle of the catwalk, while the runway show took place around them.
Lagerfeld can be relied on to provide a lavish theatrical set for his Chanel shows – his previous one recreated a Paris brasserie, while in 2012 the audience were seated in a replica of a jumbo jet – but never before has he cast an Oscar-winner to complete the scene.
The Grand Palais was transformed into a grand casino for the show, with slot machines lining the outer walls and plushly upholstered chairs surrounding the blackjack and roulette tables. Once croupiers had set up the tables for gambling to begin Stewart appeared, smoking a cigarette while wearing a black velvet trouser suit, and took her place at a table. She was followed by Collins in a cocktail dress, the pop star Rita Ora, wearing a silver trouser suit, and the rapper G Dragon. The look among the high rollers was timeless, classic cocktail chic. Paradis wore gold, while her daughter, Lily-Rose Depp, making her first Chanel appearance, wore a little black dress. Jemima Kirke, star of Lena Dunham’s acclaimed TV show Girls, was in floor-length black lace; model Stella Tennant in an elegant, classic burgundy velvet cocktail dress.
“I like that elegant moment of beautiful people going into a casino wearing jewellery,” said Lagerfeld after the show. “It’s like a fantasy.”
Haute couture is always about fantasy, and never more so than this week, when £100,000 creations on the catwalk appear to exist in a parallel universe to the one in which other European citizens are living with a €60 daily cashpoint limit less than 2,000 miles from Paris.
The celebrities were enlisted ostensibly to model the 1932 collection of Chanel diamond jewellery, which is based on vintage designs made by the house founder. Moore’s starring role was represented by her necklace, in which a glittering star trailed a trickle of diamonds around her throat and down to the neckline of her emerald velvet gown. Kirke and Lily-Rose wore diamond hairpieces.
Models catwalked around them in the clothes which were, technically, the point of this collection. Cocktail hour versions of the famous Chanel suit came fastened at the throat with frothy silk ribbon, or clasps of pearls. A black leather biker jacket was worn over a dress of ivory tulle, which erupted at the collar and cuffs.
Despite the unveiling of a hi-tech method of lasering which uses powdered metal to create a solid version of the traditional quilted effect in fabric, the catwalk show inevitably played second fiddle to the celebrities playing cards and stacking their chips in the centre of the room. Each catwalk model wore an identical short, severe wig and Kabuki-esque bright pink blush. This rendered them almost unrecognisable, as if in recognition that they could not compete with their catwalk company.
By contrast, the celebrities each promoted their own brand. Lagerfeld said he made their dresses “for them and only for them, for their personality, with jewellery matching their style and their attitude”. Stewart scowled, while Collins smiled; Ora punched the air to celebrate her wins, while long-time Chanel model and muse Paradis stood and curtsied to Lagerfeld when he appeared on a balcony.
But, as with all the best Hollywood productions, there was a twist at the end. In honour of the historic US supreme court ruling on same-sex marriage, the traditional bridal finale starred Kendall Jenner – model sister of Kim Kardashian and social media superstar – in a white trouser suit. As the show ended, all eyes – even those of the celebrities – were back on the catwalk.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010