What is fashion if not change?
Recently, Karl Lagerfeld’s spring/summer 2013 Chanel show baffled with windmills and solar panels in the Grand Palais, while the clothes on the runway lacked many of the distinctive visual markers that made a Chanel collection until now. Some even surmised that the designer may be losing his touch.
But Lagerfeld is nothing if not the ultimate zeitgeist detector, and the times are changing therefore he and anything he sets his (re)creative eye on will follow suit.
The ultimate insider, he is also sharply witty -sometimes too sharply, as many of his former close friends let on- and often comments on his contemporaries in a more or less subtle way. Either get with his program, or get out. Reading “renewable energy” in his collection is only the first layer of an epidermis of meaning. Of course, the boundless energy of the almost 80 year old designer is the apparently limitless font from which spring forth dozens of collections a year for Chanel, Fendi and other household names.
But beneath that, there is one component that has underpinned the entire Lagerfeld saga: thin air, the kind used by magicians, and from which they craft an entire new world of possibilities.
And as long as he breathes, Karl Lagerfeld will be there, reinventing the cogs that make our fashion hearts go boom and discarding what seemed set in stone.
So the new Chanel N°5 ad should have really come as no surprise, a remarkable departure from the usual offerings of the house. Perfume, one of the prime derivatives of any successful fashion brand these days, serves as the mass market expression of a house’s upcoming trends, doled out for the general public and not just the fashion few. Comprensible, but not dumbed down, so as not to compromise the high end image of the brand.
Gone are Audrey Tautou and the female-driven romantic narratives that see her undertaking some sepia-hued voyage, only to find love. This particular tale is scripted from the male perspective, and the impact of the Chanel woman on him. The new Chanel woman is not a romantic, she’s intensely pragmatic and modern. With this male driven narrative that makes better use of Pitt’s gravelly voice rather than his handsomely rugged face, the focus shifts from being the right woman to be making the right ripple in an ongoing narrative.
The end result is a little off-key, not quite as polished as the usual Chanel, despite the picture perfect scenery, fashion and ultimate boy-candy Pitt. In choosing him as the face of the campaign all but distracted from the fresh underlying message. But again, the ready-to-wear collection didn’t chime as true as it normally would either, and in that also, can be seen signs of the wheel of change ever in motion. Inevitable.