People often forget the history of Chanel. Well, if we're being honest, most people don’t think about Chanel's history enough. Regardless, the revolutionary nature of the brand's beginnings has largely been disregarded by our collective consciousness. This is something Karl Lagerfeld clearly set out to remind us of in his Spring 2014 collection.
One of Chanel's defining features during the Coco-era was just how much she helped influence the modern woman's silhouette. Before, women’s bodies were supposed to mimic the shape of an ‘S’ when viewed from the side. Obviously, women's bodies don’t actually work like that, so they were forced to wear corsets, squeezing in their waists and pushing out their backsides. It was actually Coco, with her jersey fabric and three-piece suits, who changed the silhouette to the boxier, more masculine look that helped liberate women so they could both move and breathe.
It seems to be with mobility in mind that Lagerfeld had his models skip down the runway in sneakers. He also accessorized some of the looks with fanny-packs and elbow pads. Yes, you read that sentence correctly: fanny-packs have worked their way into the world of haute couture. I never thought I’d see the day. However, maybe we’re ushering in a revolution with this one. Sky-high stilettos have become standard practice for the fashion world -- it was only a matter of time before someone decided to take it to the next extreme.
The 64-look collection contained mostly a pale color palette that matched the look of the pure, white runway on which the models walked. The garments themselves hearkened back to the quintessential Chanel three-piece suit, though it is the genius of Lagerfeld that they still managed to look both modern and interesting. (The shoulders were oh-so-now rounded, and he played with the notion of an exposed midriff by having cropped sweaters with tops underneath.)
The show ended with model-of-the-moment Cara Delevingne prancing down the runway with a halo of hair and a feather, dressed in a wedding dress whose train was carried by Lagerfeld’s 4-year-old godson.
What keeps a designer relevant is not following the trends, but making them. To play with our expectations and keep us guessing. Fashion both reflects and shapes the times.
As women are becoming increasingly active and mobile, we need fashion to follow in Chanel's footsteps and reflect that.