It’s not art, it’s shrewd Chanel, and it looks like a billion dollars

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

The sales figures (a billion by recent estimates) have become an art form in themselves

Paris

Is fashion art? It’s a debate designers have tussled with, both for and against, for generations. The latest round of that seemingly eternal argument was sparked at the spring 2014 Chanel show on Tuesday, where Karl Lagerfeld erected a contemporary art gallery as backdrop for his latest collection.

Said gallery, in truth, was a gag, packed with art pastiching everyone from Claes Oldenberg to Cy Twombly, all heavily Chanel branded.

The art thankfully stayed on the walks rather than on the clothes, bar some paint-daub prints and a few witty painterly variations on Chanel’s accessories. The 2.55 quilted bag came in canvas with painted details, or encased in a frame like a masterpiece (commercially, it sort of is). The other key bags were quilted leather portfolios, or graffitied backpacks dangling chains.

Those resembled something toted by art students, rather than Chanel’s couture-clad customer base. However, this wasn’t Lagerfeld in challenging, nose-thumbing mode. The frayed tweed looks that opened the show had an immediate believability to them. They were the first in an array of those signature suits, each different, a twist on a theme well-worn that continues to wear well. They were a neat summary of a summery, punchy collection.

This wasn’t art, it was shrewd, clever commerce. Even the sock-shoes, wrinkled around the ankles like blue stocking intellectual attire, will find a second life in someone’s wardrobe. That’s how Lagerfeld is able to stage his spectaculars in the Grand Palais: at Chanel, the sales figures (a cool billion by the most recent estimates) have become an art form in themselves.

Art and fashion leads, inevitably, to Alexander McQueen, a label where even shoes end up as sculptural constructivist pile-ups of twisted leather and metal, never mind the fantasia going on above. There’s a reality to the spectacle, of course, but it’s generally accepted that wearability will take a back seat to the thrills.

That arty-farty reputation of McQueen feels especially relevant this season, as the label’s creative director Sarah Burton looked to early 20th century art for her inspiration. Picasso and Mondrian looked to African totems to turn the art world upside down, so perhaps that’s why there was a feel of the tribal to the clothes, the hot mixes of cobalt blue, red and white reminiscent of the Masai, models marching across a veldt of graphically blocked-out coloured sand, those towering metal heels sparking the dust.

There were a few hints of the Twenties in these McQueen clothes, the dropped waists and burnished metal cloche hats. However, as with the Cubists, Burton’s women were sliced-up, fragmented, disturbed. These clothes also felt modern, the pleat-skirted models marching out less like flappers and more like female centurions, armoured and attired to brave the modern world.

Our eyes have become attuned to the tired cliché of sport luxe abounding this season: these gladiatorial women felt like a perfectly perverse McQueen slant on that formula.

In fact, this McQueen collection chimed with many of the season’s key notes: aerated fabrics, pleats, feathers, and all that tribal stuff. But just like Picasso, this couldn’t be mistaken for the work of anyone else.

Voices
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
News
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
News
i100
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Life and Style
ebookAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Life and Style
A small bag of the drug Ecstasy
Health
Life and Style
Floral-print swim shorts, £26, by Topman, topman.com; sunglasses, £215, by Paul Smith, mpaulsmith.co.uk
FashionBag yourself the perfect pair
News
news
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Extras
indybest
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    (Senior) IT Support Engineer - 1st-3rd Line Support

    £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful IT service provider that has bee...

    Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

    £55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

    Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

    £60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

    Principle Geotechnical Engineer

    £55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

    Day In a Page

    Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

    Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

    In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
    Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

    How has your club fared in summer sales?

    Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
    The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

    The best swim shorts for men

    Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable