From the futurism of his autumn/winter '18 collection, complete with life-size rocket ship, to the classical antiquity of today's cruise '18 lineup, Karl Lagerfeld has been giving good time travel at Chanel. And it's not without meaning. 'I'm suggesting going back to move forward,' Lagerfeld said in a press statement. 'To create the future, you have to pay attention to the past.'
His is the latest in a year of runways laced with commentary about the times we're living in. To say that the world is in a period of disruption is putting it mildly. It's as if mercury went retrograde and committed to it permanently, just to keep us on our toes. France is in turmoil days before the country heads to the polls to vote one of two relative political outsiders president. Meanwhile, the UK hangs in the balance as it prepares for a (surprise) snap election scheduled to take place on June 8, pre-Brexit.
With that in mind, an escape to Greece doesn't sound like a bad idea. Lagerfeld originally planned to stage his cruise collection in the country — a place that has the rare honour of being the birthplace of democracy, 'the cradle of beauty, culture and modernity,' and the fashion industry's holiday destination of choice — continuing his tradition of turning his resort shows into travelling extravaganzas held in far-flung destinations (who can forget last year's historical moment in Cuba?) But when a search for the perfect show location didn't pan out, Lagerfeld decided to instead bring the collection home to Paris as a show of dedication to a city that has weathered more than any city should.
So he commissioned a reproduction of the Parthénon and Temple of Poseidon and installed them inside the Grand Palais — a feat that took four weeks to complete — with towering Doric columns acting as backdrop for the clothes. But this wasn't fashion imitating reality. 'It had nothing to do with a country. Reality is of no interest to me. I use what I like. My Greece is an idea,' he said.
Escapism has always served as a kind of currency in fashion. And its value goes up when political and economic stability go down. Who wouldn't want to flee right now to an extended holiday on a mystical island, suitcase bulging with silk Chanel dresses? In Karl's world, that's totally possible. There were diaphanous draped gowns fit for a goddess; billowy, pleated jumpsuits; knitwear flecked with gilded leaves; and knit column dresses covered in the kinds of illustrations one might see on an antique vase or centuries-old frieze. Even the tweed, that most famous of the house's hallmarks, had a Grecian twist thanks to shorter hem lengths, fringing and braided rope details.
It was ancient Greek mythology (the show was in part inspired by Gabrielle Chanel's costumes for Jean Cocteau's staging of Antigone) meets tourist chic, complete with a selection of great cross-body bags — all the better to have one's hands free for photographing those ancient ruins.
But the biggest style takeaway with the most potential to infiltrate your closet were the shoes: tall gladiator sandals worn with every look. They brought to mind Rihanna's thigh-high sandals at the Met Gala, and seemed to forecast a moment brewing. And at a time in fashion history when it's tempting to ascribe meaning to every stitch, frill and headpiece that comes down a runway (can a shoe really unleash the gladiator inside of you?), the strongest message here was ultimately the simplest: beautiful clothes, shoes and bags to love and wear.