Paris, France – It’s a grey day in the City of lights, home for the most famous Maison in the history of fashion. As I am heading towards the presentation of the last Chanel ready-to-wear Fall 2016 collection, I am finding myself thinking over the invitation. I read the words Front row only printed above a sketch that Karl drew on the occasion of his grandiose show. A simple classic chair that all couture insiders know. It is eponymous of a prestigious era, where a fashion elite was reserved the right to discover a collection before anyone else could, where fashion editors were all-powerful, and where critiques were anxiously awaited the day after in the one colomn that was builiding reputations as well as undoing them. When looking at the back of the invite, my name carefully handwritten made me regret such times, that I wish I’d live.
But this privilege of receiving a personal invitation to discover a collection has been preserved, it has even emplified. I was thinking of how fast the industry had been growing. The reality today sums up in 2,500 guests for one single fashion show. One event was not even sufficient, they had to organize two shows. And I was going to pass the doors of this empire.
The showspace, located at the last floor of a Haussmanian building at three footsteps from the Louvre, had this high ceiling similar to the glass-ceiling of the Grand Palais. And there, I got it. I got the keys that drove to this huge success. Chanel is an active player of our world, of our society. Each collection, each bag, each piece of accessories from a simple brooch to the iconic tweed suit is a reflection of our time. And customers don’t feel total strangers when taking on an Act I AW2017 outfit. Because we feel included, we feel part of the Chanel story. Karl may be a designer, but he’s most of all an activist, who’s taking the news and reintegrating it into fashion. Fashion, not a superficial means for an Elle Woods blonde type of girl, but another way of rewriting pop culture and criticizing the current flows.
Why is Chanel so popular? Certainly because it did build a brand image with characters, values and emotion through its shows… Sure, but because customers do recognize themselves in these clothes, they feel part of this world.
And how? Well, one time we have a gay marriage closing up a couture show, another time a globe criticizing the growing speed of globalization. This year, activist Karl is pleading for a more eco-friendly and peaceful world. We cannot deny the impact of ISIS and its terror acts worldwide. The world is toughing up, entering a whole new era with more challenges. And Chanel will be part of it, as never before. As a result, Karl claims for more peace and more love. Sounds so naive right? Well, don’t underestimate the power of this brand. Chanel has nearly 12million followers on Instagram, and a net income of €1.3bn for 2014 according to PrivCo. The influence of the company through social platforms, ad campaigns, magazine coverages and fashion shows is beyond imagination.
(Bertrand Rindoff Petroff/Getty Images)
So here I am, looking at the hung clothes, analyzing every piece of details my eye can catch. Pink of course for the Act I of the show. It seems Karl is willing to cheer up a bit these dark times. Chanel Korea showed us some super bright flashy pop colors. Today we have a strong pink, added to brooches embodying the peace sign with the thumb out, smileys, etc… Act I is joyful while Act II becomes more serious. The second part of the collection is a real comeback to the DNA of the house, with the famous beige matelassé pattern taking over the clothes and accessories, mixed with amé gold, and pearl embroideries. Soft and clean, this semi-couture chapter is a real tribute to Mademoiselle’s style at the beggining of her career. The dresses are flawless, light and slightly showing the curves of the body while remaining classy and elegant. Finally Act III is the dramatic act closing up the collection, like a greek tragedy. Black and strong statements are shown, still in accordance to the codes of the Maison. Black matelassé with soft lamé touches. Bold coats, like armors, are designed for a woman facing a new world full of danger and surprises.
Here you can have an overview of the Act I:
The Act II:
On the jewlery side, Chanel started off with a high jewelery collection presented during couture in January and Baselworld (the one annual rendez-vous for watches and jewelery experts to have a glimpse of what’s new in the industry).
The first one was showcased in the showroom of the Place Vendôme. Signature de Chanel is once again a collection that does not surprise nor deceive us. The famous quilted pattern that is so emblematic for the bags (the iconic 2.55) is there transformed into diamonds and mother-of-pearl through a movement and texture that reinvents the legendary pattern. One masterpiece is this set made of rock crystal with diamonds that were curved in from the inside. Breathtaking.
These 48 pieces organized in 11 mini-collections are keeping up the quilted trend started last summer with the launch of Coco Crush. Once again, Chanel stays faithful to a creative unicity that makes it accurate towards a customer who is way too many times lost in the flow of themes, collections and lines one brand can offer. He knows what is Chanel, and why he chose it especially. That is another key to have a better understandning of the success underlying the global brand.
And at Baselworld, Chanel was obviously one major actor of the fair. Let’s have a look at the main watches it released on the occasion:
The next challenge for Chanel is the Cruise 2016 show that will take place in Havana, Cuba. Will it succeed to seduce and embrace a culture that has originally nothing to do with Chanel? The answer stands in the hands of one genius and his team of image-makers.
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