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Suzy Menkes

Vogue International Editor Suzy Menkes is the best-known fashion journalist in the world. After 25 years commenting on fashion for the International Herald Tribune (rebranded recently as The International New York Times), Suzy Menkes now writes exclusively for Vogue online, covering fashion worldwide.

Karl's Cinder-ellas set Chanel on Fire

Couture as a blend of Baroque and Modernism

8 Июля 2014

Like the dying embers of a baroque world, a gilded mirror hung in a modernist white space above a digitally-flamed fire, Bill Viola style, as seen in the video artist’s Paris exhibition at the Grand Palais.

But for the Chanel winter couture show today in the same grand building, Karl Lagerfeld lit his own vision of modernity. Gone was the huge ring of spectators and towering sets. They were replaced by a modest, modern and minimalist approach.

The models moved through the space wearing dresses with the curvilinear form of a Le Corbusier building, the cloth moulded in an egg shape around the body, without any side seams.

Chanel’s magical ateliers had no problem doing that magical modelling in Neoprene or silk. They even created embroidery out of concrete, weaving tiny squares like a stylish bathroom floor, laced with gilding, on the front of a tweed top.

‘It’s Baroque meets Le Corbusier,’ said Karl, explaining that his inspiration was images of a 1930s apartment by the architect of Modernism, who had set a gilded oval mirror into a concrete wall in a building high above the Champs Élysées.

Who knows how the creative process is fired? But this Chanel show glowed with imagination: here a dress with burning red threads woven through; there a silvered gown, as if grey ash were being fanned back to life. Those ash colours were in every shade from concrete to metallic, with evening outfits dense with decoration.

All the baroque intricacies of the surfaces were set off by flat sandals, tied with a satin bow, and wild-in-the-wind hair from Sam McKnight.

The most compelling examples of couture workmanship were the oval, egg-like shapes, reinforced by the finale of a wedding dress worn gracefully by a seven months pregnant model bride.

Karl got so much right in this collection: a sense that it is time to douse the fiery fashion shows, leaving the warm glow of haute couture for a smaller audience to appreciate. He focused on extreme craftsmanship, without showing outré or extravagant outfits. Even the light, thigh-length shorts, peeping out from short skirt hems, seemed appropriate.

These latter day Cinder-ellas looked fresh, young and lovely – and offered to the couture audience fashion modernism for the 21st century that was still very Coco Chanel.

Handbags slung across the body, cut on a curve and densely decorated, were another cool take on Coco.

But who – except Karl – with his deep knowledge of history and fashion, would have thought that baroque style could fire up such modernity?

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