A giant ice storm made getting to the city more than a little difficult, but by 6:30 on Tuesday evening, nine hundred guests had poured into Dallas' Fair Park, home of the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition and a National Historic Landmark. Inside, they were greeted by a built-to-fit drive-in movie theater complete with seventy-four restored vintage automobiles parked in front of four giant screens. This reporter watched Lagerfeld's short film from the front seat of a red convertible Chevrolet Chevelle. The Return stars Geraldine Chaplin as a wary yet still brazen Coco on the eve of her 1954 show, the one that was celebrated by the Americans and panned by the French"you can hardly call that couture," says Arielle Dombasle in the movie. "I don't think her name will last forever."
Karl Lagerfeld rocked Texas when he brought the sensational Chanel Métiers d’Art fashion show titled 'Paris - Dallas' to Dallas’s Fair Park, an imposing complex of Deco Moderne buildings and sculptures built for the 1936 Texas Centennial. The peripatetic Metiers shows that have also taken place in the Scottish Highlands, Versailles, among many others, are designed to showcase the unique craftsmanship of the ateliers that the House of Chanel has acquired to preserve in recent years so the workmanship is sensational. (As Karl explained, Chanel has just added a leather company for its portfolio that includes the storied embroidery house of Lesage, the costume jeweler Desrues, the plumassier Lemarié, custom shoemaker Massaro, and milliner Maison Michel, among others.) “The details are what I love,” said Karl, and what details!
They could be studied up close and personal during fittings on the eve of the show. There was something more than a little surreal about seeing Karl Lagerfeld’s entire rue Cambon Chanel team (including his elegant, white-jacketed butler serving the maestro Coke Zero) transplanted to a large room at Dallas’s Rosewood Mansion at Turtle Creek, decked out with festive holiday wreaths and garlands, but Karl was in his element. He had been feted in the state during his days as the powerhouse designer at Chloé (and was about to join Gabrielle Chanel in receiving the Neiman Marcus Award for Distinguished Service in the Field of Fashion, the formidable Coco came to Dallas in 1957 to accept hers from Stanley Marcus himself). “I like Texas and I like Texan people,” Karl pronounced, as Erin Wasson made herself right at home she is Dallas born and raised, after all. (“She and Lynn Wyatt are my favorite Texan girls,” said Karl.)
Meanwhile, Laetitia Crahay was busy garlanding the girls with ropes of Chanel pearls looped like Native American lariats, or classic Chanel chains threaded with strips of stone-washed denim or cotton printed like cowboy bandanas; and with witty rhinestone pistol brooches firing glittering gardenia blossoms (droll Karl touches also included purses fashioned like oil barrels, or old-fashioned holsters, to hold a cell phone, or a bottle of No. 5). Hairdresser Sam McKnight speared the girls’ hair with quills from the storied feather house of Lemarié that had been elaborately appliquéd with a marquetry of contrast-colored patches, and positioned low-crowned Stetson hats by Maison Michel on their heads. These were inspired by those from the Civil War era. “I think that’s much chicer than the saloon stuff, no?” queried Karl (“That’s for spaghetti Westerns,” sniffed Lady Amanda Harlech).
“Never use anything the way it is meant to be used,” added Karl, pointing out the elaborate motifs of a classic cowboy boot that he had blown large and used for sweater designs or as the Lesage embroidery motifs on a slinky black velvet evening dress. Those motifs were used at the knee of second-skin boots that fit like gloves or for even closer-fitting cowboy boots that turned out to be trompe l’oeil–printed hose worn with shoes that resembled chopped-off boots, with the double-linked Chanel C branded into the chunky wooden heels and classic chased-metal tips in a dull gold. (The same tone that makeup artist Peter Philips used to accent the girls’ cheeks.)
There was much sophisticated textile and texture play, too. Knitwear pieces, in stripes that evoked Chanel’s famed 1920s jersey fabrics, were laminated on the outside to resemble shiny leather. A classic jean jacket was actually made from scalloped tiers of denim, like fish scales, and wool cowgirl skirts were as elaborately woven and fringed as 1960s textile wall-art tapestries.
There was classic Chanel, too, in a suit of soft beige jersey (“Chanel, in her heyday in the twenties, was the queen of beige, before she made her little black dress,” explained Karl) that had a gentle swing to the jacket and the skirt, with its vertical pockets hidden in the unpressed pleats in the front. “It’s a vague copy of the one Chanel wore when she came here in ’57,” explained Karl of Coco’s Neiman Marcus trip, when the steers at the rodeo she was taken to were garlanded with Chanel-esque pearls.
Pale Chanel chiffon blouses in extraordinary combinations of origami pleats and ruffles (flourished with what Karl called a “scorpion bow,” fashioned from two layers of black satin were paired with those pale denim pieces or swinging midi-length skirts of black leather with a texture carved like cowboy boots. “Its Millicent Rogers in Taos [New Mexico],” explained Karl, citing the legendary heiress and tastemaker whose prophetic passion for Native American textiles and jewelry made her a prototypical hippie in the ’40s. That Millicent Rogers look manifested itself in sweeping blanket-pattern knit stoles and ponchos, and skirts with fringing that was painstakingly embroidered by Lesage. Lesage was also responsible for a sensational ballet-length evening dress and bolero solid with sequin stars of red, midnight blue, and silver, a Texan transformation of Coco Chanel’s famous star-spangled night-sky evening gowns from the 1930s.
In the runway show, set in a breathtaking nineteenth-century rodeo set, Caroline de Maigret made a dramatic bride, her proud cheekbones reflecting her Native American grandmother’s genes, framed with a feather headdress of ivory plumes tipped with pale pink. The local ladies of Dallas and Houston were en extase. “I’ve never been so proud to be a Texan,” enthused Becca Cason Thrash. “Leave it to a German who works for a Paris house to bring Texas back!”
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Photos: Courtesy of CHANEL
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