BY MICHEL GAUBERT
JARDIN D'EDEN - THOMAS ROUSSEL
It all started with a wisecrack made by Karl Lagerfeld in the Chanel Studio in July this year.
While we were talking about the October fashion show, a French-style garden setting in the Grand Palais and Last Year at Marienbad as inspiration for the collection, Karl was wondering what we should do for music. He was quick to come up with the idea of a philarmonic orchestra.
It was quite an idea since we had to get an orchestra of 80 musicians to play bang in the centre of the Grand Palais, a magical location by all standards whose accoustics are not its best feature.
Thomas Roussel, a young conductor with great ideas, was to be the man for the job; a man of talent who is always a pleasure to work with. During our discussions, we came up with the idea of making a soundtrack that was to be our version of Last Year at Marienbad, as the original score, composed by Francis Seyrig, would have been slightly nerve-racking to present the collection.
We therefore decided to do interpretations of rather well-known pop culture tracks, hinting at the audience without revealing too much from the first keys. We focused on two tracks by Bjork, ‘Isobel’ and ‘Bachelorette’, as they already are like mini-symphonies of their own with elaborate string arrangements that we mixed with a cult theme from John Barry and Thomas' exclusive composition ‘Jardin d'Eden’ before closing with the sweeping violin crescendos of ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ a track made famous by The Verve when in fact they borrowed it from the Rolling Stones when it was called ‘The Last Time’.
For two months, we swapped sounds back and forth. Thomas wrote his score on his computer, a bit like a pattern maker making his toile, waiting for final approval prior to transcribe the score for each group of instruments.
In total there were to be eight rehearsals to practice the score and adapt it to the fashion show. The first rehearsal was the trickiest because it was held in an outside venue and the musicians from the Lamoureux orchestra discovered for the first time the melodies and arpeggios they will have to fine tune within the next 48 hours. The violins screeched somewhat and the tempo was slightly off. In the beginning it is always like that and Thomas had the situation under control while I was the only one concerned with the sound being offbeat.
The night before the show, the Grand Palais was amazing with the gardens looking like they had always belonged there. Upon Karl's arrival we gave the 'go' to the conductor and the models started walking the gravel alleys in their everyday clothes, their attitude enhanced by the surroundings and the soundtrack that now sounds perfect. It is the most priviledged moment in the process of the making of a show, when all the pieces from the different players come together making Karl's vision a reality. Everything feels fresh and fragile, making the ephemeral desirable forever.
On D-Day, the orchestra walks up to, looking impeccable in their custom made Chanel cardigans, both taken and reserved by the idea of playing more than their part in this unusual production. 5-4-3-2-1 Go!
Time stands still, we hold our breath, we have to do it and do it well, it is a live performance and there is no room for error.
The models dressed in silver tweeds and feathers much loved by Mademoiselle appear from each side of the grand staircase, becoming the protagonists of ‘Next Year at Marienbad’.
Two months of work, nineteen-minutes of show but our emotions will remain engraved in our memories forever.
Thomas Roussel composed ‘Jardin d’Eden’, exclusively for the web broadcast of the fashion show.