Karl Lagerfeld does not have a problem. Karl Lagerfeld is merely a symptom of an industry hostage to its own success. When one declares “future is six months” one cannot but follow that up with “new vintage”. In hyper-competitive market space, the race is to outperform oneself. Creative evolution takes too long. Revolutions must be broadcasted on demand. How do you re-launch a superhero franchise that exhibits no signs of fading from the cultural mediascape? Cast a new villain. The main draw of this haute couture Chanel show was its presentation in a Salon d’Honneur of Grand Palais, the first public event there in seven decades. As if Chanel heritage was under threat from posterity.
At sixty plus looks there was more than enough best-of remixes to feed into the black hole of luxury-hungry wardrobes worldwide. Open shoulder gowns dovetailed V-neck blouses paired balloon pants with a punctuation mark of a cocktail dress with tulle angel wings. Shimmering stockings and elbow-high gloves. Color palette was unsurprisingly restrained to classic black & white and “new classic” silver & pink. It was beautiful, elegant, critique-proof. It was relentlessly Chanel. Maison’s signature at-knee tweed skirt suits were redesigned with tweed pattern executed in painstakingly laborious silver-thread embroidery on tulle. However, the reception ranged from a generous allotment of superlatives to simply “superfluous”.
As grand European brands akin to Chanel seem to plateau in terms of ideation, the public turns its attention to side projects where designers may have more artistic leeway. At the moment Karl Lagerfeld’s mass market collaboration with H&M or his recent star turn as a Tom of Finland inspired homoerotic comic character spark no less interest than his exercises in haute couture. Something’s gotta give. But it sure won’t be cash flow. Lagerfeld is programmed to strike gold whether he likes it or not.