Back in September, I had the rare opportunity to view a Chanel Haute Couture collection in real life. I say “rare” rather than “once in a lifetime”, because I hope it will be the first of many more chances I get to look, touch, feel, caress, drool and brood over such amazing craftsmanship live and up close. For Fall 2014, Karl Lagerfeld was inspired by famed Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier, who, like his contemporary Coco Chanel, broke ground with his designs. In a time when both fashion and architecture were overpowered by ornament, Le Corbusier and Coco Chanel pioneered a more practical, functional and casual approach.
Some of the trademarks of Le Corbusier’s aesthetic are the use of reinforced concrete and pilotis, both very evident throughout the collection; concrete is quite literally used to make very small cubes which are then attached to each other, creating strands and rows used to decorate some parts of the pieces or even used to make an actual piece in and of its own. This to me was mind blowing. I mean, some of the dresses and jackets were cool to the touch, just like a concrete floor. Then comes my favorite piece in the collection, because it was the most obvious in referencing its influence (which I was super giddy about); a white neoprene column dress, so straight it is the realization of my most minimalist fashion dreams. Although, as you can see, there is quite a lot of contrasting decoration throughout the collection as well. This reminded me of another minimalist architect –highly influenced by Le Corbusier, I might add– the Italian-born, Brazilian-turned Lina Bo Bardi. Her glass house in São Paulo is Calvin Klein on the outside and Versace on the inside. In fact, a cowhide Chaise Lounge by Le Corbusier sits in the living room of Bo Bardi’s house, amidst mosaic floors, Roman sculptures, brass details and baroque frames. We visited the Casa De Vidrio back in April during our honeymoon, and it was possibly the highlight of our São Paulo stay.
But, back to Chanel… Some of the dresses and separates took thousands and thousands of hours to make; every single detail is hand made. From the weaving of the bright red tweed, for example, to the sewing of every crystal, the painting of every swirl and dot, and the cutting of the plastic covered lace. Hard work pays off! The result of the collection is such a magical mixture of contrasts and references. It may be a homage to Le Corbusier’s vision of a machine for living, but the craftsmanship calls to mind the thought of William Morris, forever championing the power of the hand over technology. In this case, Haute Couture over Prêt-à-porter. My money is on him! And on Karl, of course.
Thanks to the Chanel team in both Panama and New York for the invitation and amazing hospitality.
All photos by me.