For Fall 2018’s Haute Couture collection, Karl Lagerfeld and his creative team at Chanel have taken inspiration from a familiar time and place: autumn in Paris. If you have been fortunate enough to visit the City of Lights during this season, you know that it is very gray, yet somehow incredibly charming. I’ve been to other “gray” cities and I must admit, I haven’t been nearly as captivated by them as I have been by Paris. I’ve also been there during summer (2005) and winter (1997)—I believe never in the spring—so I can’t claim to know with certainty what the absolute best Parisian season is, and honestly I’d go whenever if I could (who wouldn’t?!), but thus far fall has been the most enthralling and romantic time for me to visit the mythical capital of France. Hence, Mr. Lagerfeld’s and Chanel’s Ateliers’ interpretation of Paris in the fall is just as beautiful as I would expect it to be.
Sequins made to resemble the sunset sky glittering upon the surface of the Seine—which had such an impressionist quality to them I could’t help but think of Monet’s multiple sunset paintings of urban and rural landscapes, including the Seine and the Thames—made into elegant gowns and contrasting military style jackets. A dress with beads sewn in a stretcher bond pattern evoking quaint Parisian cobblestone streets full of character and history. As many shades and textures of gray as you can imagine, inspired by the city’s rooftops that have, with reason, become an Instagram cliché, yet they continue to inspire and excite no matter how many times we see them. Golden touches reminiscent of the Pont Alexandre III and mint greens that are present in so many French buildings but most famously the Grand Palais, where Chanel hosts all of their shows, also made it into the collection. One of those mint green numbers was the bride, which featured leaves embroidered down the chest that took 530 hours to make and are made up of 82,500 parts. The motif is a homage to the uniform worn by Les Immortels, members of the Académie Française, the institution in charge of all matters pertaining to the French language. Another nod to this establishment was the set design; literal book sellers’ “boxes”, like those spread across the banks of the Seine, lined the runway against the backdrop of an Académie replica.
Perhaps my favorite thing about Chanel Haute Couture Automne-Hiver 2018 was the play on proportions. I’m a sucker for big shoulders and this collection has plenty, as well as contrast. As I’ve learned through years of working with Chanel, Mademoiselle loved a good paradox, she was full of them herself and proudly embraced them. These paradoxes are now trickled all over the Chanel brand and are an integral part of the Chanel myth. Black and white, strong and soft, male and female, independent and vulnerable, Coco and Gabrielle. So many looks in this collection feature contrasting elements; translucency versus opaqueness, rigidity versus fluidity, broad versus narrow, short versus long, open versus closed. Where the nods to Paris were quite—ahem—literal, the nods to Mademoiselle are a little more beneath the surface; a bit mysterious like the woman herself. And if you know me, you know that I love a good easter egg.