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.
#SuzyPFW Chanel: Intimate Technology
Karl Lagerfeld gets tangled up in computer wires
4 Октября 2016
The sunlit arch of the Grand Palais looked down on a line-up of hefty clicking, whirring computers with snarls of multi-coloured twisting wires at their base.
This gigantic techno data centre (that did nothing to boost the feeble signal of an audience clutching their smartphones) formed the backdrop for the line-up of guests. The mighty machines followed the audience's benches into what seemed like techno infinity.
Karl Lagerfeld had already thought up another of his 'bons mots' or smart expressions. "Intimate technology", the designer said, referring to the Chanel tweed outfits that inevitably kicked off the show, their short, thick skirts opening with front and rear vertical zippers to reveal pink chiffon underwear. The girly effect of this lingerie seemed like an outmoded "oh la la!" vision of womankind in 2016.
But then almost everything was wrong about this start-up. If the models were supposed to be a futuristic tech group (and the first two came out as robotic, space age figures in helmets and padded mittens), shouldn't these smart women have been wearing techno fabrics and the kind of clothes that suit hot desking and 20 hour work shifts? Instead they had on boring old baseball caps.
Karl was the first couturier to understand the concept of fashionable sneakers, yet his spring/summer 2017 footwear was only punched sandals with straps wrapping the ankles and ballet flats.
But far more than the minutiae of the accessories, there was no sense of the powerful beauty of technology in the blurry-check suits, a striped puffer jacket with a snow drift of chiffon on the sleeves, or in tweeds illuminated with crystals.
We all know, of course, that the intangible 'cloud' that contains the content of our electronic devices is a string of wires and grinding computers - probably something like what appeared on the Chanel stage.
But we want to believe in something more poetic: the 'cloud' as heavenly, out there and up there, looking after the collections of our lives in digital words and images.
It was that magic that was missing in this Chanel show, although Karl gave it some vivid touches like tabs of shocking pink or chilly crystal for bold necklaces. There were also some techno patterned dresses — bright, light and colourful — and no doubt in subtle texture and careful construction — totally different from the digital prints in the windows of every high street shop.
For the Chanel store windows there was plenty of stuff to rock the clients: flashy colour for plaid jackets and cute plastic-looking box bags in bright pink. But this show, for all its fine clothes, looked like a gimmick to keep up with a shifting world.
And there is more beauty in the smooth metallic oblong device held in the palm of the hand than in the fancy clothes on Chanel's clicking and flashing stage.