In an age in which the fashion world embraces art, and art embraces fashion, the question posed at the vibrant Chanel show might not be “Is fashion art?” but “Is art fashion?” Practically alone amongst his fashion titan colleagues, Karl Lagerfeld, however, claims that he does not collect contemporary art. “I’m collecting books,” he explained crisply. “I have no space for art.”
But while the legendary architect decorator Peter Marino is commissioning emerging and established artists to create pieces inspired by Chanel icons for the brand’s boutiques around the world, Karl asked himself: “Why not do the same?” So he set his show in a vast “art gallery” created under the dome of the Grand Palais, and hung its walls with all manner of art pieces that riffed on Chanel icons and playfully mimicked some bold-faced art world stars. “I made believe it was all kinds of young artists together,” laughed Karl, standing in one wing of that enormous gallery after the show. “But it’s not all different young artists,” he added with a twinkle. “It’s one old artist - me! I made everything. It was a good summer’s work!”
"Glass and Mirror" - CHANEL Press-Kit - Photos from the Spring/Summer 2014 Ready-to-Wear campaign by Karl Lagerfeld with model Lindsey Wixson. The collection is available in stores since this month.
The clothes themselves seemed more real-life than rarefied. “Life is not a red carpet,” Karl explained. “This is for daily life. I wanted color, and a fraîcheur. It’s a very happy mood.”
But seen close up, those Chanel “real life” pieces are little masterpieces of subtle embellishment and invention; there are garments here that could be hung on a wall. “The art is also in the collection,” explained Lagerfeld muse Amanda Harlech during a preview, pointing out extraordinary textured tweeds woven from strips of tulle, perhaps, or cassette tape, or even mountaineer’s rope (an atelier challenge, that one). They might be rubberized, or painted by hand, but they were never left to their own devices. The inspiration for the eye-popping Pop Art palette came, amazingly, from the vivid hues and subtle gradations in a nineteenth-century sample board by Royal Talens, a company which produces oil paints for artists. Karl even reproduced it as a print, with 150 different tones (something, he pointed out, that is really only possible with today’s nuance-sensitive photo print technology). He also used hits of the surprisingly sharp, contemporary-looking colors as a foil to dusty pastels and the classic Chanel monochromes.
Witty accessories included a “headset” choker necklace with giant pearls replacing the ear pieces and an artist’s canvas version of the classic Chanel 1955 purse with its quilting and detailing painted on as a trompe l’oeil that same technique was used for backpacks and for geometric little dresses. And the metallic leather handbag, designed to hold the requisite three cell phones that every fashionista seems to own today, is sure to be on every Spence girl’s wish list.
Selections by ANDREA JANKE Finest Accessories
Press-Kit: The House of CHANEL
Runway: VOGUE / Yannis Vlamos (Indigitalimages)
Backstage: Kevin Tachman
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Karl Lagerfeld excels in the art of giving Haute Couture a modern vibe. Conveying a feeling of youth, freedom and lightness with a collection free of superfluous details, its luxury lies in its exquisitely refined materials and elegant clean cuts. Although pure lines are already an essential part of Chanel's vocabulary, they were enhanced by the freshness and fluidity reflected in each one of the collection's 64 looks.