The eco-friendly stance of the Chanel Couture show is inspiring, and we hope it's a message more designers begin to make visible.
Although the Zen garden Karl Lagerfeld constructed inside of the Grand Palais for Spring 2016 Couture was less extravagant in scale and scope than what we’ve come to expect of Chanel’s shows, it was by far the most serene set we’ve seen from the brand. Serenity was central to the theme of the collection, which celebrated nature in an unexpected way: through delicate couture craftsmanship that elevated raw, natural materials like straw, twine, cotton, and linen into unbelievable textures and shapes. Across a uniform and stylized landscape, Chanel’s creations emerged in shades of navy, cream, beige, dove gray, and jet black.
Since Chanel owns seven of the world’s most elite ateliers, the craftsmanship of the brand’s Couture collections is unfailingly superb. What is fascinating about this show in particular was not the magic that ateliers like Lesage were able to work within the limitations of raw materials, but rather the opaque modesty of the clothes themselves. For daywear, skirts were cut to mid-calf lengths, sleeves were long and either billowy and Edwardian or curved and padded. While a Chanel girl is often proper, she is rarely ever this prim.
Eveningwear provided a dazzling reprieve from the parade of beige tweeds and navy buttoned-up dresses. This is where Chanel’s ateliers really stepped it up, turning midi-length dresses into walking works of art by applying tiny wood chip beading to their surfaces, and by adding dimensionality with ruffled fans, colorful embroidery, paillette clusters, and silky fringe. Lagerfeld also removed bulk from his looks by slicing dresses on the bias, snipping slits into trousers and skirts for ease of movement, and improving the neckline with plunging cut-outs. The conceit of this collection was its simple appearance, which added to the serenity of the scene without subtracting from the care and labor it took to make these beautiful clothes.
While a Chanel girl is often proper, she is rarely ever this prim.
This isn’t the first time that Lagerfeld has used his work for Chanel as a platform for change, but this attempt was more successful than the faux feminist protest he threw for Spring/Summer 2015. Instead of sloganizing, he incorporated sustainable materials directly into his designs, and turned the natural into the man-made in the most spectacular way. Couture, by its very nature, is “slow” fashion, which means it is made with tremendous skill and meant to be worn and preserved for a lifetime. By coupling couture with ecology — even down to how the materials for the set are to be recycled after the show — Chanel achieves more than an empty but fashionable gesture. The eco-friendly stance of this show is inspiring, and we hope it’s a message more designers begin to make visible.