Chanel After Karl Lagerfeld Is Looking Blah - Despite A Paris Runway Crasher
In her first major ready-to-wear show after Lagerfeld's death, creative director Virginie Viard remains true to the brand's aesthetic vocabulary but doesn't say much that's distinctive
Karl Lagerfeld made it look easy. His version of Chanel, typically presented in runway shows against an elaborately designed mise-en-scène, was an enervating avalanche of ideas. The models, sometimes almost 100 of them, marched along so fast that it was a challenge to the senses just trying to sort it all out. Was that tulle? Was that pearl trim? Was that a rocket-shaped handbag? What is going on?
Lagerfeld was a master at making you curious, at making you lean in for a closer look. Popular culture flowed through the Chanel atelier, infusing the collection with urgency — or at least awareness.
After Lagerfeld's death earlier this year, his former right hand Virginie Viard stepped up as creative director. Tuesday morning, at the Grand Palais, she presented her spring 2020 runway collection. The new Chanel is less frenetic. The music was rather stodgy instead of energising. Instead of a set that includes an iceberg or a rocket, hers depicted the rooftops of Paris. The biggest jolt to the system was when a civilian dashed from the audience to join the models' final walk.
But first, to the collection. The star of it all was, as always, the classic Chanel jacket — that tweedy, boucle, gold-chain-trimmed, impossibly-expensive icon. It is elongated. The shoulders have gotten broader. It has been adorned. There are also ruffly skirts and balloon-sleeved blouses. There were hats because there are almost always hats at Chanel. And there were oddities such as tight black bloomers paired with sparkly tops.
Occasionally, something quite lovely would appear, like a long black skirt with a white blouse whose fabric seemed to swirl around the body like a camellia enveloping the torso. A red plaid jacket and skirt looked especially cool and enticing on the runway, but when you gave it more than a moment's thought, you realise that what made the combination seem so modern wasn't the cut or the fabric but rather the model who was wearing it. Her confident swagger and magnificent Afro were what made the look shine.
Lagerfeld's Chanel was fashion as improvisation: "Yes, and ..." Viarad's was a collection defined by "maybe."
One longed for something luscious to evoke desire or something outrageous to set your tongue wagging. The clothes were wearable and palatable but not particularly memorable. If this was just another fashion brand, one without the history, stature and a passionate customer base, this blah aesthetic wouldn't nearly be enough. But at Chanel, it very well might be — at least for a while. It will take a bit of time before the customer relationship with Chanel fades from obsessive to a shrug.
The fashion cycle demands clarity and brilliance right this second, which isn't really fair. Chanel has the luxury of time.
The acolytes turned out Tuesday morning. It was drizzly outside and the entrance to the Grand Palais was cordoned off with metal barricades. But the fans and the curious lined the sidewalk nonetheless. Security checked identification and matched it to invitations. Handbags rolled through X-ray machines. The swag of the morning was lipstick tucked into little shopping bags at every seat.
The ladies came wearing their Chanel jackets and hats, their fall 2019 purchases and their back-of-the-closet favourites. They brought their loyalty and their money, along with fingers itchy to take a selfie to document the day. As the models paraded one last time around the rooftop set, a woman in a black and white houndstooth suit and black hat dashed from the bleachers and clambered onto the runway. She adjusted her jacket, glanced over her shoulder and strutted along with the models.
She was identified by Women's Wear Daily as Marie Benoliele, aka Marie S'Infiltre, a comedian whose YouTube channel includes a video of her crashing an Etam runway show, where she struts the stage in lingerie. Surely, infiltrating a Chanel show must be a gate-crasher's Mount Everest. In a statement, Chanel confirmed that the stunt was not planned. The crasher was escorted to the exit — after an encounter with model Gigi Hadid. Apparently handcuffs were not involved.
While security should really do a postmortem to figure out how someone was able to leap from the audience onto the runway, the Chanel brand should mostly be worried about how easily Marie S'Infiltre's little ol' checked suit and hat blended into the new collection on the runway. They didn't look a wit out of place.
That's not a maybe — that's definitely not good.
— The Washington Post