Technology has transformed the fashion industry in a thousand or more ways, but few things have had more radical impact than social media’s widespread, instantaneous reaction to collections at Fashion Week. Designers bear witness in real time as feeds flood with praise or scrutiny for a show, allowing them to see how their work was perceived on a global scale. This season, something different happened for Chanel, which usually enjoys the most post-show adulation of any brand. For the first time ever, the feedback was less than positive.
In typical over-the-top fashion, Karl Lagerfeld constructed a Parisian avenue, aptly named Boulevard Chanel, in an attempt to support his looks with a real-world environment complete with potholes and sidewalks. Eighty-five models marched the pavement in colorful bouclé suits, super-charged watercolor florals, and military-esque separates. Lagerfeld also showed gorgeous metallic-tiled sheaths, preppy separates, and classically French looks replete with marinière stripes. It was all very cool, relaxed, and youthful, but it wasn’t the clothes that raised the ire of internet commenters, it was the message.
The show’s finale was a simulated protest march that had Cara Delevingne leading the charge with a bullhorn, minutes after Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman” blasted on the speakers. Models followed behind with signs that bore slogans such as “Feminist but Feminine” and “Make Fashion, Not War.” Much of the female audience was left in tears in the joyous energy of the moment, yet in hindsight, it was an ironic concept in the face of so many authentic protests happening around the globe, and especially paradoxical given that the fashion world is known for its lack of diversity and inclusiveness.
Feminism isn’t available for commodification, and the women in the audience – incredibly privileged editors, VIPs, celebrities, stylists, and models – have very little to actually protest about. It seems that, in trying to engage with a mainstream discussion about feminism, Lagerfeld has detonated a landmine.
Yet in reading the responses by real women who had something to say about Lagerfeld’s “protest”, we noticed how thoughtful and passionately articulated their thoughts were. In the case of Chanel vs. real women everywhere, opposition was a good thing, as it engaged the global audience on a topic that merits more than just mock signage – it brought about authentic discourse. And Karl Lagerfeld, in the face of so many questions about how he would outdo himself after last season’s historic “Supermarket Chanel”, managed to do just that yet again.
Photos: Courtesy of Imaxtree