FROM BYZANTIUM TO ISTANBUL
BY OLIVIA DA COSTA
A tribute to the ancient Imperial capital, the Paris-Byzance collection combines French couture tradition with Ottoman magic, bridging the gap between past and present, Occident and Orient. Istanbul – a crossroads, swarming metropolis and a city of striking contrasts with its mosques, secular neighborhoods, high-flying jet-setters and high-tech – has been chosen by Chanel for another showing of its Métiers d'Art collection following the official December presentation, which took place in the Chanel salons on Rue Cambon, Paris. The venue is a white marble terrace at the Ciragan Palace, a former residence of a sultan. It offers a place to admire the Bosphorus, lulled by the regular sound of the waves. The Bosphorus is everywhere: a part of the city and a stimulating yet soothing presence.
At nightfall, it is time to go inside the palace where the show’s backstage area has been set up. Beneath Murano-glass chandeliers – no doubt reminders of the sultan’s lavish lifestyle – the girls are being prepared with chignons worn very high on the head and eyes rimmed in black and red eyeliner. Models are standing in the wings dressed in tweed chasubles with hints of gold, velvet harem pants or draped chiffon dresses, all of Byzantine inspiration. Outside, the anticipation is building. The intelligentsia and local press start to arrive. The women all look very beautiful and elegant tonight, in lots of black and outrageously high heels. Kirsten Dunst, Élodie Bouchez and Cécile Cassel arrive. The show starts and the models descend the majestic staircase with an air of nonchalance. A steady ballet featuring these Imperial sylphs is played out. The girls walk by, only centimeters from the audience comfortably installed on sofas and cushions. The spectators, who are so close they can almost touch the garments, get a good look at the embroidery, braiding and wrought-gold buttons.
The last model completes her run. The show is over and the elegant women of Istanbul are thrilled. After a glass or two of champagne, all the guests melt back into the steady bustle and traffic of a city that never sleeps.