For the Chanel Spring 2014 collection, the Grand Palais was transformed into a gigantic white-walled hangar of paintings and sculptures—quintessential Basel or Frieze—all seventy-five of them made by Lagerfeld during his Summer of Prodigious Creativity. Karl’s reference points were identifiable, though he cleverly twisted them so they each included some element of Chanel: a camellia, a pearl, a bottle of No. 5. Some of them had red dots beside their titles, like they’d already been sold.
The coming together of concept and design was clearly responsible for the way Lagerfeld’s theme infected his collection to a greater degree than usual.
Deconstruction, trompe l’oeil, collage, bricolage—this Chanel collection was a fest of art processes. You never get the sense that Lagerfeld is pushing himself; he makes everything look much too easy for that. Nevertheless, in the ninety-ish looks he showed today, there were more stories than he would usually be bothered to tell. For instance, a paint chart from the 1900s yielded a whole group of primally Pantone-ed pieces. They were something quite new for Chanel. There were great things that looked like they’d been scissored from charcoaled canvas—again, in keeping with the theme but intriguingly raw for Chanel. And Lagerfeld’s collaborators kept the dream alive with their impeccable contributions. Sam McKnight’s wigs were paintbrushes-cum-Darth Vader helmets of hair. Peter Philips’ makeup looked like an artist had wiped his brushes on eyelids instead of on clothes or canvas.