Chanel Spring 2019 Couture

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Snow might have been falling outside the Grand Palais in sub-zero Paris, but inside, Karl Lagerfeld transported us to a sun-baked Italian villa with terra-cotta urns of oleander flanking an inviting pool, and cypress and palm trees shading sandy pathways, stone balustrades, and a sweeping stair.

In his serene collection Lagerfeld looked to his beloved 18th century for inspiration. The protean designer was particularly inspired by the exhibition “La Fabrique du luxe: Les marchands merciers parisiens au XVIIIe siècle”. The exhibit focuses on the Parisian merchants who supplied the wealthy of the 18th century with luxury goods of all sorts—from silken ribbons to gilded picture frames to sumptuous furnishings—an activity showcased in Jean-Antoine Watteau’s 1720 painting L’Enseigne de Gersaint, set in one of those dealer’s shops.

Lagerfeld summoned the amazing skills of the French couture suppliers to evoke those flowers in feathers and hand-painted sequins, even using dried flowers dipped in resin, that were embroidered or applied to materials running the gamut from airy organza, chiffon, and lace, to gleaming leather and the house’s signature handwoven tweeds. In other examples of tour de force workmanship, lace was hand-painted or iced with silicone whorls to suggest blue or pink and white china; tulle was shredded into strips so fine that it suggested a cloud of swansdown trim at the cuff and hem of a suit ensemble or was plaited and sewn into dense grids over a base of filmy lace to create the illusion of plaid when seen from afar. Evoking the delicacy of the pieces that Lagerfeld created for Chloé in the 1970s were dresses composed of tiers of finely pleated silk chiffon, each layer with a slightly wider gauge of pleat toward the hem—a subtlety only noticeable up close.

The lean tailoring, meanwhile, focused on a firm, angled shoulder line to the jackets and pencil-slim skirts that sometimes exploded into kick pleats at the calf. That narrow silhouette was occasionally broken with a flurry of asymmetric ruffles, or loops of fabric (or even ostrich feather fronds) draped into panniers to suggest an 18th-century silhouette. This being the haute couture, some of those loops were lined with solid crusts of embroidery, an extravagance only partially revealed in movement.

Lagerfeld more or less dispensed with revers altogether (as Mademoiselle did in her famous cardigan jackets), creating gentle bateau necklines by turning the collars back or extending them into looping origami folds that were seamed into the waistlines of his shapely jackets and coats. With that inviting pool in the middle of his set, Lagerfeld’s bride wore a swimsuit for her nuptials, but this being Chanel haute couture it was encrusted with a dense embroidery of silver flowers.

On that playful note, the girls filed out for the finale to the exuberant strains of Mina singing that classic 1972 Italian hit “Parole Parole,” but Lagerfeld did not emerge to take his customary bow, and his absence sucked the air out of the room with the sharp collective intake of breath.

In his stead, he sent his invaluable studio director Virginie Viard, who coordinates these wonders of the couture atelier, so certainly deserves her moment in the sun.(Vogue)

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