Dispatches from Paris: Chanel

Rebecca Lowthorpe reports

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GIF: Chanel, s/s 2015 - Getty, Rex

Nobody in fashion captures the zeitgeist like Karl Lagerfeld. Further proof, if any were needed, happened on the Chanel catwalk – or rather the Chanel Boulevard – this morning, where fashion and feminism marched hand-in-hand. ‘Feminism NOT Masochism’, ‘BE YOUR OWN STYLIST’, ‘Make Fashion Not War’, read some of the placards held aloft by the model march.

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Karl, a feminist? Mais oui. ‘I’m very much into that, and my mother was also a great admirer of a certain feminist of the 19th century,’ said Mr Lagerfeld after his standout collection, designed to be worn by every woman – every woman who can afford Chanel, that is - . ‘Yes, that was the idea. It was less fashion – it was more ‘mode de vie’ (clothes for life). That’s why the street set: no red-carpet dresses, or things like this,’ said the designer dressed, not in his trademark black, but navy (another small but significant revolution).

‘The navy? I was tired of all the black all the time. It’s chic, it’s Dior,’ he said, behind matching dark blue, flocked sunglasses.

IMAGE: Chanel, s/s 2015 - Getty, Rex

With the Grand Palais transformed into a life-size street, complete with authentic pavement and puddles, the message of real-life clothes was made with full force. All 85 models, a cast of all ages, had been kitted out in something individually tailored to her character: Cara Delevingne in a grey tweed trouser suit and low-heeled shoes; Sam Rollinson in a splashy, rainbow-coloured cape coat and matching knee-high boots; Caroline de Maigret in lacquered navy pinstripes; Kirsten Owen in a smart, navy tweed coat and gold flats; Gisele Bundchen, the new face of Chanel No 5, making a rare (her only) runway appearance, in a casual, striped beige cardigan dress and stripy flat boots. Plus, every permutation of luxurywear to work clothes you could possibly imagine, which went straight to the heart of the brand and its founder, Coco Chanel – fashion’s ultimate feminist, who smashed through convention in the early 1900s by liberating women from the corset.

One of her most famous quotes rang true here: ‘A girl should be one of two things: who and what she wants.’

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