High-minded glitz. Not a concept easily realized, even in the haute sphere. That’s because, just like everything else in fashion, glittering embellishment has a range from high to oh-so-low. It has been used and abused, the go-to trick-me-up for red-carpet mermaids, cheesy pop stars, cheesier gymnasts, housewives of who-knows-which-city and every PYT with an Instagram account and a party to chronicle. Along its egalitarian journey, the sparkly stuff has lost the luxe from its luster.
Leave it to Karl Lagerfeld to put it back in. At his Chanel show on Tuesday, he turned up the tony on intense renderings of allover crystal embroideries. His starting points: two icons of 20th-century creativity, Syrie Maugham and Alberto Giacometti. Maugham’s white interiors and famous slim-paned mirrored screen provided specific inspiration for Lagerfeld’s installation in the Grand Palais, right down to the multiple vases of sleek, tall calla lilies.
If the set reflected anything — other than everything — it was a sense of strict control imposed to enhance elegance without draining spirit. The prevailing silhouette was inspired by Giacometti’s “Spoon Woman.” The result: a waist higher than natural but below empire, with a skirt curved around the hips in the shape of a spoon. The fusion of the two — the palette drew from Mauham’s whites and mirrored silvers — produced evening looks as spectacular as they were soigné. Lagerfeld created the dress bodies from allover abstract crystal embroideries — substantive, bold, unfussy — adding explosions of feathers on hems or sleeves. Despite the materials’ flamboyance, the concept never lost its chic. And while one could easily envision a woman thus bedecked settling onto a fringed Maugham sofa, neither was it particularly retro. Rather, the dresses made a current (one might even say visionary) proposal for elevating glitz to glorious in a real, grown-up context.
Speaking of reality, Chanel’s couture clients don’t shun the light of day; they dress for it. Lagerfeld doesn’t let them down. He opened his show with a deep offering of suits. Cut with the same elevated waist and a strong shoulder, the sharp tailoring mitigated a fragile palette of all pretty icy pastels. Quiet yes, but they radiated a quiet power and looked great.