Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Chanel Métiers D’Art 2012

Photo by Antoine de Parseval

Chanel’s delicious Métiers D’Art collection, presented in Paris the day before yesterday, had much in common with an Indian wedding. Gold silk paired with a tight pair of white leggings, a multitude of nose rings, a tika dripping down on to the forehead, finely-crafted hand jewellery – and unapologetic excess.

Designer Karl Lagerfeld is happy to admit that he has never been to India, but the Paris-Bombay collection finds it easy to mate the fantasy of an opulent Orient, with the current-day middle-class Indian reality of having more pocket money than you know what to do with. Lagerfeld has installed this lushness into a European collection, saying that, “People have always responded to difficulty by dressing up in jewels.” Well, then, portends of a second recession be damned. (Is the first over? When did that happen?)

The Chanel Métiers D’Art collections have showcased the best of French craftsmanship for the last eight years. Priced somewhere between Chanel’s prêt-a-porter gear (£2000), and their couture (£20,000), the 2012 collection showcases Lagerfeld’s interpretations of Indian fashion history. Yards of intricate lace construct the classic Mughal anarkali dress, full with transparent sleeves and muslin scarf. Beads are threaded delicately into a long white sherwani. Necklines and hems are weighted down with jewels approximately the same weight as the models that wear them – a tradition followed by many Indian queens through history.

The borrowing of Oriental fashion and injecting it into European lines has a long trajectory. French designer Paul Poiret (1879-1944) opened his own fashion house in 1903 with the kimono coat. Just before the First World War, when dancers like Nijinsky and Loie Fuller dressed in filmy Turkish-inspired layers, and Egyptian head-gear, Poiret dressed his wife Denise in “harem” trousers and minaret tunics studded with turquoise stones. Poiret launched the first ever signature fragrance produced by a fashion house “Parfums de Rosine” with a lavish Arabian Nights-style costume ball. In similar fashion, Paris-Bombay was launched during a lavish Indian-themed dinner party that doubled as runway for the models who walked in kolapuri slippers through aisles of candlesticks, piles of fruit, and gold-plated cutlery – not to mention the French ton.

Seventy-three-year-old Lagerfeld has also produced shows inspired by Byzance, Shanghai and Moscow. Not far from a dandy himself with his white-powdered ponytail, his hand-held fan, and his sunglasses, Lagerfeld owns more than two hundred exclusive stores around the world, and designs not only for Chanel, but for artists like Madonna, stores like H&M and Diesel, and his own fashion house. He likes to periodically remind the world that he is still alive by using fur in his shows and employing strippers to model his lines.

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