Picture Le Grand Palais transformed into a post-apocalyptic landscape looking like a life-size painting by Anselm Kiefer or a delirious vision by Michel Houellebecq during his Lanzarote period.
There was black sand strewn on the ground and a catwalk of raw boards. Skeletal trees, like shadows or dreams or memories, were painted all around the nave. Smoke swirled up from the floor. It was all very striking and disconcerting... and impressive, like the two giant boxes from which the fashion models were ejected, as ablaze shadow puppet as white as an anti-radiation suit.
There was nothing languid, romantic or sweet about the Fall-Winter 2011/12 Ready-to-Wear collection presented by Karl Lagerfeld. Not tender or reassuring. The mood that has electrified Chanel in the most singular way is more in the radical, grunge, anti-bourgeois vein.
The prevailing look was subversive. It takes a tough, hostile element from another world – that of the street, rock and night life – and transforms it into an insolent chic of a boy-girl on the warpath, a gorgeous very sexy guy. The elegance of the look simply invalidates any notion tied to classicism or the idea of women waddling and standing on stilts. These outfits will go home with women who know how to play off masculine versus feminine archetypes.
One hallmark of the collection was sturdy boots, like those used by American soldiers since 1944 and by military men of all stripes over the last fifty years. At Chanel, the boots were a brilliant final touch to almost every outfit, including a metallic silver mesh cape, a jacket of luminous hound's-tooth tweed worn over wool trousers, and an exciting combination consisting of an embroidered black micro-dress worn with a quilted jacket and dark grey leggings that vanish amid "ankle scarves!"
Another unlikely combo: superb tweed mini-boleros with fancy buttons worn over ultra-severe black jackets, anthracite-grey wool pants and heavy bronze-green shoes. And let's not forget the sumptuous teal blue jacket whose spangles lend a soupcon of casual luxury to a pair of Japanese-looking trousers, worn with a pair of evening combat boots to clash with the overall effect.
The idea is to break with style trends and take viewers by surprise... in other words, to maintain a permanent state of revolution. We were crazy about the other leitmotif of this collection: the jumpsuits looked ready to hit snowy slopes, country roads or city streets. Our favorite, worn by Caroline de Maigret, was black and spangled with sexy zippers at shoulders and neckline.
Never has a Chanel Ready-to-Wear collection contained so many references to the working world and to the street. We also liked the knits and the two long, grungy-chic dresses in mottled grey with fancy buttons, very comfortable and reassuring, worn with the Chanel version of boots.
Small, round bags in black or white were worn on the back of the hand, like brass knuckles. Here and there, a bare ankle emerged, artlessly setting off wide-cut trousers with turned-up cuffs. The evening jumpsuits, with their lace and openwork motifs, were more sophisticated. Their design sets up tension between what is visible and what is left to the imagination, a fundamental rule in the art of seduction. The look that triumphs in this collection – definitively anti-bourgeois and diametrically opposed to "prim and proper" – is stunning for its personality, its rock 'n' roll attitude and its sex appeal.
Watch the full show on chanel.com