Chanel: “Sans Unique,” blared the press folder sitting on the chairs at Karl Lagerfeld’s Chanel. “One Way Street.” Somebody must have missed the sign because the clothes came speeding in from every which way — and sometimes out of nowhere — in a frenetic romp that detoured dramatically from Lagerfeld’s most recent gentility route. And if there were a few casualties on his feisty highway du mode, it still offered a wealth of marvelous merch.
Over the years Lagerfeld has proven again and again his ability to keep modern fashion’s singular best idea evergreen through his brilliant manipulations without sacrificing a bit of its essence or commercial viability. Recently he has propelled Chanel to the most delicate manifestations of its range in both ready-to-wear and couture, and his pale-toned, ultra-feminine feasts have reverberated throughout fashion. Now, with so many other designers still mining his gentle side, for fall Lagerfeld made a sly detour to once again take Chanel where the boys are.
In discussing his collection, Lagerfeld gleefully described the famous photograph of the young Coco in her boyfriend’s jacket, tossing in one of his signature one-liners, “She took from the boys; we give back to the boys.” Here, he referred specifically to Mademoiselle’s appropriation of the classic Tyrolean jacket as the template for one of her greatest signatures. Lagerfeld maintains that its straight, boxy cut works both for women and men with “the physique of the moment” (read: skinny), and made his case by putting tweed-ed up male models on the runway, “not in men’s clothes, in the same clothes.” (Not about to make a mockery of the Chanel runway, Karl kept dresses a girls-only option.)
He worked the look not in delicate pastel tweeds, but in meaty, genderless brown-based neutrals or bold red, white and black. They came fast and furious, in pile-ons of jackets, sweaters and mufflers, with newsboy caps lending a jaunty punctuation. How much was too much? When any or all of the above came with skinny pants in those gigantic tweed checks.
Sometimes Lagerfeld showed relative reserve, with bold patterned motifs bordering a coat or stretching out into a super-long cardigan. But whatever he did, it typically carried the attitude of the street. There were ski moments, motocross moments and a brief tough-gone-girly interlude in acid green with black leather that looked a bit scary. But then, Karl has never played it safe — or smug. Thus, through it all he flaunted the latest of those fabulous jackets that continue to be the toast of retail.As for Lagerfeld’s premise of gender-free chic, one wished that he had worked it for greater visual wallop. With their pretty faces and shoulder-length hair, his boys either looked like they had pulled mom’s coat off the rack, or they just blended in seamlessly with the girls. Then again, that was exactly the point.
Louis Vuitton: What is it they used to say girls were made of — sugar and spice and everything nice? Throw in tartans, bustles, a flourish or two pilfered from 18th-century portraits, others from naughty Japanese paintings, politely cleaned up, cute indie rocker Meg White of the White Stripes, and a soupçon of Rosemary Clooney in “White Christmas” — and oh, yes, import some impressive ice towers from the Ice Hotel in Sweden for atmosphere — and you start to get a handle on Marc Jacobs’ recipe for girlish wiles. He stirred it up delightfully in his collection for Louis Vuitton on Sunday.
It started when two members of his design team came back from a trip giddy with the lore of the Scottish Highlands. “Spring was so rich, and I wanted to take that idea somewhere else, especially the idea of dressing up for day,” Jacobs said before the show. The solution? A Highland romp spun the Marc way, “with some good old punk, some good old Goth and some good old glamour, almost a Tim Burton view of Scotland.”
To that end, he opened with a fitch-collared, full-skirted tartan blanket coat to knock your socks — er, your fur-trimmed booties — off. It was part of his dressed-up mood for day that featured a tweed suit veiled in black tulle, naughty black gloves with prim tailoring and a tiny fur stole or silver sequined cardigan giving the razzle-dazzle to plaid skirts — charmers all. And doesn’t just about everything look better punctuated with girlish black bows? In fact, Jacobs went all out with the trimmings — an ermine collar on a pink dress, snow-like embroidery edging a little white sweater, a big butterfly bow placed with odd strategy on the bum of a netted miniskirt.
If it all sounds like a bit of a jumble, it was. And there were awkward moments. Everygirl knickers are destined not to catch on, and a big, bustled-up tartan swooshed with that special je ne sais quoi of a Seventies mom at the Christmas party. But then, a certain awkwardness is inherent in Jacobs’ aesthetic; his is a world in which the divide between cool girl and wallflower isn’t so wide, and both are welcomed at his fashion party.
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