“I just never found a place to do it,” Karl Lagerfeld said after the Chanel Fall 2104 Haute Couture show. Until now, of course, when the gigantic forest-planting, iceberg-importing, supermarket-building extravaganzas of Chanel shows past were scaled down to mimic the stark geometry of Corbu’s designs.
But it wasn’t simply with the setting that Lagerfeld indulged his long-cherished dream. Le Corbusier was the architect who made concrete a staple of modern design. So Lagerfeld made concrete the foundation of his collection and delightedly demonstrated the material’s unexpected lightness by dangling a string of concrete beads under the noses of journalists. “Tongue in chic,” he crowed. “Very chic.”
That twistedness was the key to the Chanel collection. Everything was molded rather than seamed. “It’s Haute Couture without the Couture,” said Lagerfeld. Sam McKnight’s hair and Maison Michel’s little hats perched pertly on the back of the models’ heads had the effect of a Haircut 100 cover from The Face circa 1982. The effect was compounded by Lagerfeld building his silhouette on shorts. There were coatdresses over shorts, jackets and skirts over shorts, plus the perfect shoes for shorts—sandals. Given the molded, sculpted nature of the clothes, Lagerfeld liked the ease of a flat. “The models can walk in those dresses like they’re nothing,” he said.
The combination not only embodied the brutalist/baroque twinning of Lagerfeld’s inspiration, it also echoed the duality of Coco Chanel’s own life, the austerity of her professional self countered by the exotic orientalism of Coco at home. It made for a stunning contrast, matched only by the final foxtrot of Karl and his seven-months-pregnant bride, the Kiwi model Ashleigh Good. “I like pregnant women,” he said, in keeping with his new cat-loving, godfather-ing public persona. “She looks so elegant, so noble.”