If clothing-as-object is at once textual and textile, it’s because those words have a common etymology, the Latin textilis — a reminder that the weave of a fabric also can correspond to that of a story. Materials can be transformed into a narrative thread — the ones in the CHANEL by the sea show spin the story of an extremely precise gesture — that of slipping off shoes and walking barefoot along the shore. With colors as fresh and zesty as a pink dawn on a summer’s day, the clothes are a vehicle in the chemical sense of the term: they’re volatile, and therefore transmit particles of instantaneous images.
And suddenly we, all the spectators, rediscover that clear and powerful emotion of turning up trouser cuffs in order to let the waves caress our ankles. It’s a tiny emotion that contains an immense idea of freedom. And this emotion brings with it a multitude of images: midnight swims and coming home in the wee hours of the morning, cocktails sipped through fluorescent straws, bare skin rubbing against swimsuits — and young girls in Marcel Proust’s imaginary resort village of Balbec kissing the salty lips of surfers in Baja, California, or Gabrielle Chanel brezing into Deauville for a date with destiny…
It’s Karl. Each of his shows is the recreation of a discernable memory. Slipped between the view and the clothes are strata of time that layer together moments that are remembered, dreamed or imagined. With a gesture, an object, a décor, he transports us into a suspended moment, somewhere between remembrance of those who have gone before and prescience about lives yet to come. Karl Lagerfeld never puts women in a tricky situation: he never mocks, disquiets or parodies them — on the contrary, he accompanies them and gives them the artillery of self-confidence. Therein, too, resides his astonishing modernity.