The Mind-Boggling Consistency of Chanel

I’ve had about 24 hours to absorb Chanel’s Spring 2017 collection on web and social and one particular facet of the coverage that surprises me every season, whether I’m in Paris and at the show, or in New York observing the Jewish New Year, is that no one talks about the clothes.

The sum of the show’s parts — the set display, the kneeling into a slice of the zeitgeist, the number of Chanel accessories running rampant through the Grand Palais — is just too great to get caught up in an intellectual back-and-forth on tweed. You can do it, but what’s the use?

When you think about the fanfare Lagerfeld incites, this makes perfect sense. The man essentially heralded the show-as-spectacle. It’s baked into his DNA. In 2008, he staged a resort show in an airfield in California and attendees actually stood to clap before the show even started. There was no Instagram back then. His intention was purely to incite delight. Last February, it seemed like he was putting the hoopla to rest when he turned the Grand Palais (his choice venue in Paris) into what looked like a very old school couture house. But even in its simplicity, the conversation was about Lagerfeld’s involvement in the future of Chanel, not the incredible leather lacework baked into his tweed skirt suits.

The clothes don’t need further verification. If ever there was a proof of concept that success entails doing the same right thing over and over again, this house is it. The shoes will sell, the bags will sell out. The skirt suits — paradoxically iconic and whimsical in 2016 — will continue to make it to the top of inspiration boards on Pinterest. It’s incredible, absolutely mind-boggling in fact, that such a mode of dress has maintained its clout, its cache, the nuances that separate the ladies from the girls, for this long.

With that sort of comfort in the product comes substantial room for play. For a spectacle. To get a crowd riled up and to redefine what it means to show. For wire cables and “intimate technology,” as Lagerfeld called it for Spring 2017. But why don’t we, cynical and jaded spectators, chastise the house for detracting so much attention from fashion and placing it instead on the surroundings? When any other designer does this, the media shouts “Death to fashion!” But when Chanel is the perpetrator? Genius.

Feature photo by Stephane Cardinale – Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images; slideshow photographs via Vogue Runway.


Leandra M. Cohen

Leandra M. Cohen is the founder of Man Repeller.

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