Chanel autumn/winter 2016-2017 couture (Photo by Patrick Kovarik/ AFP)
Haute couture has come to epitomise the pinnacle of glamour, to the extent that it can be easy to forget that the mythical creations seen on the world's red carpets once begun life as something as ordinary as a piece of fabric in the hands of a talented tailor. Tuesday's Chanel show served as a humble reminder.
Karl Lagerfeld used the Chanel autumn/winter 2016 couture presentation to celebrate the house's 'petites mains', meaning the talented team of artisans that beaver away in the brand's tailoring and dressmaking workshops on Paris's rue Cambon. In a touching tribute to the house's employees, the city's Grand Palais was transformed into a replica of said workshops, with tables, sewing machines, mirrors, pins, fabrics, multi-colored threads, toiles and mannequins recreated down to the smallest detail. To bring the scene to life, some of the seamstresses themselves were brought onto the stage, offering the audience an enchanting glimpse into the inner workings of the house and serving as a reminder of the individual artistry behind the success of one of the biggest brands in fashion. "I thought that was a modern idea to make them participate," explains Lagerfeld. "They should be shown too."
The clothes themselves were defined by sleek, pure silhouettes, with the structured and graphic collection featuring beveled or angular-cut shoulders held in place with stitches to create an upright effect. Three-quarter length sleeves and 7/8 turn-ups on culottes and wide-cut trousers kept things jauntily androgynous, while tweed jackets with protruding pockets on the hips languidly highlighted the waist and crafted sensual, hourglass figures.
Evening looks were inspired by the work of English illustrator Aubrey Beardsley, featuring dresses adorned with feathers at the shoulders and hemlines, while high waists were punctuated with protruding pockets to smooth the silhouettes. There were dresses that flared out over soft cages, crafted from taffetas, chiffons, crêpe georgette, organza and silk tulles, resulting in a voluptuously elegant aesthetic. In typical Chanel fashion the devil was in the details, and the collection excelled itself with intricate stitching spun with fringed spirals and braids plaited with tulle and tweed. The embroidery of stones, matte sequins, beads and feathers was combined and multiplied endlessly to create enchanting flowers, while jewelry found a new purpose as precious cuffs.
Lagerfeld's bride -- the showpiece of every Chanel couture show -- was a modern vision in a jacket and train embroidered with feathers, and a bustier and trousers fashioned from lace, tulle and satin encrusted with strands of pink and white wool.