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Chanel SS16 show report Paris Fashion Week
After the supermarket, the brasserie, the demonstration and the casino, what adventure did Chanel have planned for its SS16 show? The ticket arrived in the form of a boarding pass — Chanel Airlines would be departing at 10.30am from Grand Palais. I imagined the space transformed into a vast mall of duty-free with Chanel whisky and cigarettes — well, it’s the retail environment wherein so much Chanel merchandise is shifted, after all.
In fact Terminal Chanel was white, spacious and altogether first-class: a departures board at gate No 5 announced the house’s recent outings to Salzburg, Shanghai, Dallas and Seoul (where its most recent cruise collection was hosted in May); ground attendants lined Chanel-themed check-in desks in jaunty print scarves while strapping luggage-handlers minded baggage counters dressed in Chanel Airline tees. That the luxury client is a creature of travel is well-known, and the signifiers here were painfully familiar to those editors now on day 26 of this seasonal fashion odyssey. Would there be Chanel in-flight sleep-suits?
Sadly not, but there were loose jersey trousers that could be described as track-pants, and silky print trousers and shirts fit for the club lounge. The clothes were designed for ease of movement, with lots of zipper fronts and tied layers — shirts and feather-light separates were knotted at the waist — and the trademark tweeds were soft, clean and uniformly smart. In a week in which the head of personnel at Air France was stripped of his apparel by embattled airline staff, there was a sumptuous irony in seeing Chanel’s pristine steward suits here: let them eat (departure) gate.
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The travel tropes were both discreet and disarming. One expected the quilted wheelie Coco case, abstract cloud prints and coloured aviators; less so the departure-gate printed silks or the flyaway skirts with their arrivals-letter tiles. And what about the Birkenstock-style sandals with their fly-me runway lights down the soles, as though the models might actually take flight?
At this point, Chanel is less a fashion show and more a branding spectacle (even more so considering this near-coincides with the launch of an immersive Chanel exhibition, Mademoiselle Privé, at the Saatchi Gallery in London — replete with its own experiential Chanel No 5 scent room). There were beautiful clothes but the message here was so much bigger than that of which skirt length will be key next season (mid-calf and kick-flared, as it happens).
After so many setpieces, possessing a Chanel show ticket has become something akin to owning a freedom pass at Alton Towers: a fully realised first-class experience which is less about the fashion and all about the ride. Which perhaps detracts a little from the fact that this was a superb collection. By the final call, Karl Lagerfeld had offered a genius blend of pop, classic, trophy and jaw-dropping pieces fit for every type of far-flung adventure. Even for those of us who simply dream of going home.
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