Thursday, 15 December 2011

Karl Lagerfeld Gives Willy Wonka a Run for His Money

Photo: Antoine de Parseval
More on Chanel's Paris-Bombay Collection

Chanel’s tasty Métiers D’Art 2012 collection titled Paris-Bombay, actively and unapologetically, set out to woo the Indian upper-class customer who has more pocket money than she knows what to do with. Fuelled by a booming economy, and a desire to consume, consume, consume, India seems to be the next destination of choice for the big design houses.

At first glance, designer Karl Lagerfeld’s collections, inspired variously by Byzance, Shanghai, and Moscow in recent years, follow the path of fin de siècle designers like Paul Poiret. These designers and artists married early-twentieth century art deco with orientalist acquisition to market to the European fashionista the mystery, exoticism, and opulence of the orient. But peer a little closer. The mingling of French lace with lavishly-embroidered anarkali gowns, of elaborate hand-chokers and tikas dripping down on the forehead, is not just selling the fantasy-India of elephants and maharajas to Europeans, but to the generous-pocketed Indian consumer. It is the Orient marketed to the Orient. Go figure.

The Paris-Bombay collection, in which models paraded their tight churidars paired with gold lame, their lashings of pearls, and their kohlapuri slippers down aisles studded with an Indian-themed banquet – replete with mountains of fruit, ornate candelabra and, I want to say, chicken tikka, but who knows? – is the orientalist version of Willy Wonka’s party. Instead of children whose brains have been addled by sugary confections, however, the invitations were exclusively given out to design and pop culture royalty, and the Parisian ton.

Seventy-three-year-old Lagerfeld, famously attired in his indoor sunglasses, white ponytail, and Tourette’s-like quotes, says he has never been to India and that “It’s much more inspiring not to go to places than to go.” Hmm? What does that even mean? He went on to say that women all over the world often respond to recession by dressing up in their most lavish jewels. Off to Accessorize I go…

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. 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.

Published on the London Word

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