Dispatches from Paris: Chanel Haute Couture A/W 2015

Rebecca Lowthorpe reports

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‘Couture is about glamour and wealth,’ declared Karl Lagerfeld, sitting at the roulette table on the set of Chanel’s Haute Casino show.

That’s right, the Grand Palais had been transformed into a real working casino. To wit, one-arm bandits that could be played with silver Chanel coins (and whirred with lucky number fives) decorated the outskirts of the set, while the centerpiece – two roulette tables, complete with handsome croupiers – played host to celebrity gamblers. Among the roll call: Julianne Moore, Kristen Stewart, Lara Stone, Rita Ora, Lily Allen, Vanessa Paradis and daughter Lily Rose, Geraldine Chaplin (daughter of Charlie), Gabriel Kane Day Lewis (son of Daniel) and Korean K-pop star G Dragon.

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Images: Getty

‘I like the idea when you see people beautifully dressed in casinos gambling; it’s like a fantasy,’ remarked Mr Lagerfeld, who explained that this was a casino plucked from his imagination and, no, he did not like gambling. ‘That’s all I hate in life,’ he dismissed.

The concept originated from some recently discovered 1930s jewellery sketches by the illustrator Paul Iribe (one of Coco’s boyfriends) and Lagerfeld had been asked to put the reinterpreted jewellery in a show. Hence the 1930s-style casino backdrop and the world’s most glamorous cast, literally dripping in diamonds. ‘I didn’t want it to look like a red carpet, I saw enough of that!’ he said, justifiably.

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The sublimely elegant celebrities were the show within the show, representing Chanel Haute Couture at its most traditional, whereas the collection that was paraded simultaneously on futuristic fembots pushed the very boundaries of the craft. Those seemingly innocuous little black Chanel suits sported by models in laser-sharp black wigs? They were manufactured by a state-of-the-art Selective Laser Sintering machine. Come again? They were literally spun from powder by a high-powered laser that in true Ex Machina-style created them in 3D form.

Images: Getty

‘I took the most iconic 20th-century jacket and remade it using a technique that couldn’t have possibly been imagined before,’ said Lagerfeld. Any client ordering said looks would have to have their body scanned in order to produce it – surely, the very haute of 21st-century couture.

While those creations resembled superlight armour, it was the more classically dreamy pieces, whipped up with lavish embroideries, which were most swoon-worthy. Picture a coat of enormous pink and black blooms made from miles of shredded chiffon or those standout gowns – quite literally – with fitted bodices and skirts that sprang away from the body in stark silver satin. Of the latter, Karl said: ‘I had a vision, I saw it like an electronic flash.’

Even the bride had a lot to say. No big frothy fairy tale number here. Instead, she wore a trouser suit, which felt like an elegant way to make a political point, in light of last week’s US Supreme Court ruling on same sex marriage. ‘We want to be the top of the top of modernity,’ said Karl.

In the end, the Chanel show summed up everything there is to say about haute couture in 2015: global branding par excellence, craftsmanship pushed to the technological frontier, creative vision and pure human endeavor. As Julianne Moore put it: ‘It’s like performance art but with the most enormous amount of artistry, effort and love that goes into each and every piece.’

And as Kristen Stewart said: ‘You don’t have to wear couture to appreciate it.’

The House always wins.

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