As the world grows more and more artificial, human beings increasingly crave the comfort of authenticity. It is for that reason that the bespoke, DIY, artisan movement has seized hold in major cities around the world as people gather to celebrate the unique skills that elevate the quality of the products they enjoy. In the realm of couture, the talented men and women who craft each garment are tucked away inside an atelier, closed off from the rest of the world, and relegated to the wings when the clothes they have worked hundreds of hours to create finally appear on the runway.
For Fall 2016 Couture, Karl Lagerfeld decided to do things a little differently, turning the spotlight on the Chanel atelier and making the invisible hands that measure, embroider, decorate, and sculpt his lavish creations visible to the attending public for the first time. The Rue Cambon atelier was recreated around the perimeter of the Grand Palais, and Chanel’s petites mains busied themselves within the replicated workshops during the show. Seeing the humans responsible for every exquisite detail of a Chanel look threw the reality of couture into sharp relief; for once, we were able to put a face and a pair of hands to the millions of hand-crafted elements of some of the most beautiful garments on earth.
While the selection became increasingly stunning, the dizzying monochrome dresses were the ones that won the day.
With the atelier now made real before the eyes of attendees, the clothes were perceived with more intense scrutiny. Lagerfeld first displayed the tweed suits he’s been perfecting for decades, shown this time in shapes so skillfully rendered that they appeared to levitate around the body, holding their own form by way of ingenious engineering. These full-coverage looks, supported by slim gloves that climbed up the biceps and thigh-high suede boots, sported standing collars, contrast lapels and trim, and culotte bottoms, thereby transmitting a modern message. Tweed dresses mimicked the precision angles of the preceding suits, but they were decorated more lavishly with floral appliqués, crystal embroidery, bows, and brooches.
High drama was found in looks that sprouted feathers along the seams, which came to resemble peacock plumage as the pieces wafted down the runway. While the selection became increasingly stunning – with some looks featuring sequin-encrusted surfaces and 3D paillettes – the dizzying monochrome dresses were the ones that won the day. These intense black-and-white looks weren’t so much “inspired by” the works of English illustrator Aubrey Beardsley, but rather they were purposefully brought to life in homage to her work, which includes ‘Peacock Skirt’ and ‘The Dancer’s Reward’.
To cement his fashion-forward push, Lagerfeld took the bridal look in a surprising direction by showcasing silky cropped trousers, a crystal-embroidered jacket, and a blush-pink marabou-feather train. “A wedding trousseau comprised of trousers?” the crowd murmured. Clearly, this modern bride marches to the beat of her own drum.