The main question that preoccupied the Paris fall shows, which ended this week, was how to make clothes that women will actually want to wear. Nobody asked the question that explicitly — this is still a business of smoke and mirrors, as the Louis Vuitton show demonstrated with its reflective columns and front-row lineup of young celebrities — but the clothes made everything crystal clear.
First, there was the Chanel show, held as usual in the Grand Palais. This season, instead of a mock brasserie, airport, or supermarket — all sets for recent collections — Karl Lagerfeld re-created a no-nonsense couture salon, with a front-row seat for every guest. In fact, that was the show’s title: “Front Row Only.” The arrangement brought the clothes closer to the audience, and downplayed the notion that shows are entertainment. He then backed up his theme by making clothes that were more widely accessible in style and attitude — without diluting Chanel’s high-fashion image.
This was one of Lagerfeld’s best ready-to-wear efforts in a while, and even though we sat through a whopping 93 outfits, the show moved at a pace that reflected the spirit of the clothes. The opening look, a dress and matching cropped jacket in deep-fuchsia bouclé flecked with black, set the tone for the tailoring. The fit was lean and dynamic, great for a woman who wants to look polished yet comfortable. It was shown, like many of the outfits, with low-heeled boots with panels in the same bouclé. Lagerfeld also did his version of sweatshirts (okay: more the suggestion of them), and this season’s popular khaki raincoat and tough, close-fitting sport jacket (in black leather) with a deep hood.
In other words, he found credible ways to connect Chanel to the rhythm of many women’s lives today. More casual looks with a street vibe, more gender-free outerwear, and fewer fussy evening dresses. And he still managed to soak everything in Chanel’s language and pearls.