The waiters in their starched collars, black ties and aprons outshone the guests grabbing a morning coffee at the Brasserie Gabrielle.
The carved wooden bar, tables and chairs installed as a set by Chanel at the Grand Palais was Instagram heaven — until the show started and the models took over.
They were wearing their versions of neckties or ankle-length aprons over long skirts and pants — and carrying ‘plates’ that turned out to be the chic handbag of the season.
“I wanted something very French, and what is more French than a brasserie?” said Karl Lagerfeld. “And it had to be done by someone like me, because if it were done by a French person it would look like a patriotic act.”
The café-society frolic was yet another stage performance from the master, following his art gallery and supermarket themes of previous seasons. But this was really a way for Karl to focus firmly on daywear. It is a long time since there has been so much wool, tweed and what looked like padded, puffed-up jackets on the Chanel runway.
Was it a step in a new direction? The models were wearing the slingback two-tone Coco shoes that Karl told me he had not used once in over 30 years at Chanel. (Better order a pair right now — they’re bound to be the fashionable footwear of the season.)
Karl said that the inspiration was those industrious waiters in their black ties, but that the context made the scene deliberately “more day-to-day and a little more dowdy”.
Well he said it!
If it had not been for the fun accessories, like collars crocheted to look like paper doilies, and the general amusement of watching models act out their parts, the clothes themselves may have seemed quite dull and even frumpy. A Chanel puffer jacket anyone? But then having had the opportunity to speak to Karl at the studio, I discovered nuggets of invention hidden in this collection.
The parkas were, in fact, delicately made with quilted leather; knitted dresses were shaped by those magic ‘petites mains’, to follow the body shape and flare out at the knee-length hem.
Karl was smart to have the models hang out at the bar, so that the audience could see up-close the knitted weave of a rosebud-pink dress, the pendant medallion pressed like Chanel quilting, or the double ‘C’ pin in the hair.
Maybe the truth is that everyday life can be quite dull — even if you are wearing Chanel. Perhaps Karl thought it was time for a reality check for the fantasies of high fashion. And for clients who might want a lighter, brighter more fairy-tale collection — there is always haute couture.