Chanel Pre-Fall 2017

img_6046“The Ritz is very gilded,”

said Karl Lagerfeld, gesturing toward the decor of the newly refurbished Paris hotel as he held court on a plush velvet couch in the lobby. “Look, white with gold!” Sparkle, sequins, gold metallics, even gold-dipped feathers naturally became a festive-looking thread in the Métiers d’Art collection, Chanel’s sixth and final runway show of 2016. Well, how on earth does Karl Lagerfeld’s mind keep pouring out ideas at this rate for Chanel, let alone all the work he does for Fendi? “I see things in my sleep. I have a pad by my bed and wake up and sketch them. If I don’t, I cannot go back to sleep.”

This time, at least, his waking—or dreaming—imagination hadn’t had to travel far. Coco Chanel famously lived at the Ritz from 1937 throughout World War II, and died here in 1971. The house of Chanel is steps away from the hotel’s back door, on the Rue Cambon. Lagerfeld’s angle, though, wasn’t the life of Chanel herself, but, he emphasized, “cosmopolitan elegance [and] people from all over the world who’ve come to the Ritz. There were hundreds of dinners in the ’20s and ’30s, where women wore incredible things. But you cannot tell from the collection what decade it is, and I think that is modern, no?”

The show, which was served up in three sittings at lunch, tea, and dinnertime, sent a mixed bunch of lanky models, “daughters-of,” and Pharrell Williams winding their way around tables in the hotel lobby and a specially built “Jardin d’Hiver.” It made sense as a ready-made scene without any need for flown-in props. The Ritz is exactly where the international high-rolling couture customers billet themselves while shopping in Paris. Likely, too, considering their parentage, more than a few of the models have been familiar with this kind of lobby life since they were babies: Lily-Rose Depp, Georgia May Jagger, Levi Dylan, Sistine Stallone, and Willow Smith among them.

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Hair up in net veils decorated with roses, the girls pranced at a clip in midi skirts and Lurex pedal pushers, bubble-shaped capes, and square-shouldered jackets. There were skinny knit silvery dresses, a gorgeous white lace poet-sleeved blouse with a black leather cape and pants, a navy sheared mink tailored coat piped in gold leather, and tiered skirts flouncing out from narrow dropped-waist bodices. It was less a look than a cocktail menu of individual styles, really. But as Lagerfeld put it, that is the measure of the distance between Coco Chanel’s time and ours.

“In those days, even to the ’60s, there were one or two designers who dictated what everyone wore. That is not the case today, when there are thousands of images of fashion available, so anyone can choose to wear what suits her.”

Just as long as they belong to the Chanel glitterati, in this case.

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