FALL-WINTER 2012/13 HAUTE COUTURE
BY ELISABETH QUIN
Chanel, New Vintage Couture Collection
Revolution at the Palais! This breathtaking glass construction spanning 1 200 square meters was inaugurated at the World's Fair in 1900 (at that time, Coco Chanel was 17 years old, still boarding at Aubazine Cistercian Abbey in Corrèze, and was already highly skilled in needlework). The Salon d'Honneur at the Grand Palais had not been used for a hundred years and Karl Lagerfeld was rejoicing in the idea of revealing this hidden treasure, transformed for the event into a dreamy, watery urban garden. With white wicker armchairs, pale gray walls, anthracite paving, lemonade and canapés and the dappled trompe-l'œil sky on the ceiling, the atmosphere was a touch romantic, old-fashioned and marvelously civilized. The reappearance of a Proustian world, a Thomas Mann universe, a dreamland.
Adding another layer of refinement, the pink and gray colors of the collection were inspired by the palette of Marie Laurencin. Impossible to dissociate the collection from her works: La jeune femme à l’écharpe, La femme au foulard, Domenica or even Les Biches; the two last canvases are kept at the Musée de l'Orangerie. With the line's fluid, slender forms, the flurries of chiffon, this ethereal, delicate femininity, through which the androgyny so treasured by Coco Chanel cleverly avoids vapidity, is confirmation of a daring modernity.
What is this New Vintage, this oxymoron that amuses Karl Lagerfeld?
It is a way of expressing the historical nature of the House and the collection, recalling the first decade of the 1900s with style, a Peter Pan collar in white organza and a flared black velvet dress as a tribute to Colette; the 1920s is reflected with low-waists, narrow hips, clear lines, the love of lamé; the 60s with resolutely pop chromatic boldness, like a bubblegum pink color on a stunning suit, canary yellow; the 70s, full pants and puffed shirts with ascots, studded belts, low-slashed V-neck chic gypsy gandouras, bare backs cut down to the kidneys, extremely rare at Chanel; and the beginning of the glam-rock 80s is represented with glitter and pearlized pantyhose.
A succession of allusions in a magnificent, incredibly coherent collection, worth an oxymoron in these times of economic crisis: a luxuriously simple collection. Because though the silhouette is simple, free of ostentation or extravagance, free of jewelry or accessories, except for the long, ultra-fine leather cuffs – a foppish gothic touch – the materials and details are alarmingly opulent and luxurious.
Embroidery (ah, these sophisticated angora wool motifs, pearly-pink micro-tubes, rhinestone spinning tops, tiny clover flowers on tulle)! Gossamer compositions created by the plumassier Lemarié; from the almost invisible long white tulle coat embroidered with delicate feathers in heart designs, to the miraculous bridal gown with its feather skirt and high feather collar! Evening gowns are embroidered with virginal chiffon studded with pale pink camellias. Embroidered real and “faux” tweed with unparalleled softness, worked into gorgeous evening jackets with 3/4 length sleeves, in a black and white suit, and in a mat and shiny coat dress. Finally, blue-pink and gray-pink lamé, gradually sliding into blue towards a pomegranate sunset, from gray to a gloriously pink dawn, straight from the palette of... Marie Laurencin.
In 1922, two years before Laurencin painted her Biches, Marcel Proust died. “Fashions change, themselves born from the need to change”, as found in his "Within a Budding Grove"/"In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower”.
Chanel and the New Vintage, or a journey through time!
Photo by Olivier Saillant