Karl Lagerfeld does not do things by halves. The Chanel designer has previously transformed the grand expanse of Paris’ monumental Grand Palais into a wind farm, an underwater lagoon and once even filled the landscape with giant crystals erupting from the ground.
Yesterday, guests at the Chanel autumn/winter show were greeted by a single, albeit giant, globe rotating in the centre of the auditorium. Lights twinkled across Lagerfeld’s version of the world, presumably to pinpoint where the power-house has a presence, and little flags with the brands famed interlocking Cs were posted at intervals – this could have been Lagerfeld’s way of reaffirming Chanel’s dominance of the fashion world.
As Chanel is privately owned by the Wertheimer brothers, the grandchildren of Coco Chanel’s original business partner Pierre Wertheimer, the company’s books are kept under lock and key. Thanks to a fortune of €6.5bn, one of the brothers, Alain Wertheimer, was placed eighth in a list of the 500 biggest fortunes in France in July last year by business magazine Challenges. To date, Lagerfeld is enjoying his 31st year at Chanel and the world is his oyster when it comes to set creation and the clothes which looked rich, though remained fun – a feat that was observed by Milla Jovovich and Jessica Chastain in the front row. The bouclé wool skirt suit – an outfit synonymous with Chanel – was the main element of yesterday’s collection, but with a far more youthful silhouette.
Boxy jackets were worn with mini knife-pleat skirts, the latter offered in leather and tweed: turned-up collars and thigh-high shiny PVC and leather boots added to the hardness of the look.
Heeled biker boots had multiple strands of chains – the same as used on the brand’s famous quilted bag. The camellia was reincarnated in the form of embroidery down blue denim jeans or in multiples as 3D flowers on an oversized short-sleeved jacket in a moody monochrome colour-way. Fur helmets looked nomadic when teamed with spirograph-printed leather pieces.
It was the turn of another fashion heavyweight in private ownership to show next, this time Italian brand Valentino. Last July the red-carpet favourite was purchased by Mayhoola for Investments, backed by a private investment group from Qatar, for an estimated €700m. It is widely believed that the Qatari royal family are the brand’s new owners, and they will benefit from sales that grew in 2012 by 22 per cent to €392m.
“Magical realism” began the notes for yesterday’s show, and true a description that was.
Designers Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli presented a collection of beauty and elegance. While leather cut-out collars decorated little black dresses and coats sweetly, before the collection progresses to carpet-like tapestry dresses and long chiffon gowns with embroidery inspired by Delft ceramics that whipped up an air of romance.