Chanel’s regatta and roll chic sails into Hamburg
They say never look back, and Karl Lagerfeld, despite returning to his family’s hometown in Hamburg for his latest Chanel show, certainly did not in this novel and nautical chic collection.
A collection that set sail inside the Elbphilharmonie, the giant concert hall courtesy of architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron built on top of a port-side, redbrick warehouse, which opened this January. A soaring glass structure 110 meters tall on the Hamburg docks that appears to undulate like a giant wave, above passing tankers, trawlers, cruise ships and ferries, helmed by merchant seamen - the key inspiration for the clothes.
Pretty well every one of the 87 passages in the show featured steamboat captains' peaked caps, trimmed with ragged Chanel tweed blue straps, crystal chains and CC brooches. The sort the Beatles – who cut their teeth as musicians as late teens playing clubs in Hamburg’s naughty Reeperbahn district – once wore. Think Ringo on the Help! Album cover.
Bell-bottom deck hand pants with flat front flaps trimmed with gros grain or made in waxy leather versions with gros grain side stripes. And, as it’s nearly always chilly in this North Sea port, thigh boots made of cable wool, topped by matching Aran sweater cocktails. And, one just knows the new Chanel pea coats, flared to echo the Philharmonic’s curves, will be what every hip gal will want to wear the next time the barometer falls.
“I came here for the building. It really inspired me, and has made Hamburg the new capital of culture in Germany. Since Zaha Hadid passed away I believe that Herzog and de Meuron are the most interesting architects. They have a concert every day here and all of them are sold out. Though Hamburg is not the city of my youth. They certainly did not have any containers when I was a boy!” Lagerfeld joked with FashionNetwork.com in his backstage green room post-show. And, in an insider visual gag, the German couturier even presented a series of miniature Chanel container bags.
Plus, he reconfigured the classic Chanel suit for the High Seas with golden ship rivets for buttons, triple stripes and collars draping way down the shoulders – an old favorite of Coco’s. Myth has it that the collars come from when all sailors tarred their pigtails. The cast led by German superstar model Anna Ewers, who opened the show, all had pigtails too. As the models marched round the curvilinear concert hall, an orchestra of 35 played La Paloma, the music heightened by the remarkable acoustics, aided by routed gypsum panel walls.
Though the highlight were a series of fabulous feather fantasies where Lagerfeld really displayed the technical brilliance of Chanel’s remarkable Paris resources, a key point of these Métiers d’Art shows. Most spectacularly - short cocktail dresses with sailors’ collars made of feathers in horizontal stripes, courtesy of Maison Lemarié, the flower and feather specialist founded in 1880, which the Chanel group acquired in 1996.
“You can thank Virginie for that. She really did something special this season. Merci!” said Lagerfeld in gracious compliment to his right-hand woman at Chanel, Virginie Viard, who smiled happily beside him.
For evening Karl kept it saucy – well, we are in a port city – with see-through tulle skirts topped by bold black and white cable sweaters in the Baroque patterns of Hamburg’s city hall. Accompanied by the local tradition of accordion music, referenced in expanding handbags with gold chain straps.
At the finale, Lagerfeld, dressed in a Dior Homme jacket, took his bow with godson Hudson, saluting the audience of 1,200 whose front row of ambassadors – including Kristen Stewart, Tilda Swinton, Lily Rose Depp and Marine Vacth, rose to their feet amid prolonged cheering.
Lagerfeld left his home region as a young teenager to come to Paris to study design after the war. More than six decades later, he returned in triumph, unveiling his latest creations for the world’s most successful luxury fashion label. Not a bad way to come home.
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