Who wouldn’t kill to be at the C-side right now? Karl Lagerfeld’s invitation to a tropical beach, complete with fake waves, gave Chanel’s global audience an uplifting mini break. For all the insane illusionary grandeur of the set, it was a show of real and relatable fashion—a blissfully easy trip bringing us back to the heart of Parisian chic.
Shoes kicked off, Chanel’s models reminded us of the central question in a fashion that has gone adrift in these confusing times: Who would you like to be? Gazillions of women will testify an answer in chorus: a carefree French girl, please.
Lagerfeld’s show sur la plage reconnected us with all the solutions that Coco Chanel first invented to boost female social confidence. There has been a lot of avant-garde-ish discussion about designing around bourgeois classics this season—beige, ladylike suits; silk dresses; chain bags; logos. Mademoiselle Chanel had a hand in writing those rules. Lagerfeld—who keeps young people around him constantly—intuited exactly how to work that to full advantage.
The show observed Chanel through the enthusiastic lens of a girl who loves stealing her mother’s oversize ’80s tweed jackets, suits, cropped cashmere sweaters, and quilted chain bags. Talk about athleisure and the newly arrived trend for leggings and cycling-slash-scuba shorts? Ha! Karl Lagerfeld first took Chanel to the surf in 1991 with his scuba-and-tweed collection. Yes, it made waves.
Don’t mention it to him now, though. His mission is keeping Chanel in a permanently relevant present. Double quilted bags. Little A-line dresses with Chanel-chain straps. Fabulous Provençal raw-edge straw hats. Is it all pop culture marketing? When the section of lemon-colored silk dresses constructed with micro pleating and inserts of Chantilly lace breezed through, clearly not.
Asked if he was thinking of reprising that reference, Lagerfeld responded with a classic zinger: “When did you say that was, the ’90s? I wasn’t born!”
Hilarious riposte. There’s a school of thought—dwindling—that fashion doesn’t need to be deeply meaningful. It doesn’t, just as long as it’s this well-made—and this amount of fun.