The Chanel Hoedown

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by Leandra Medine
December 12, 2013
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It took a French house to do it, but Texas is back

There’s a lot of pride in Texas. It took spending less than 24 hours there for me to come to that conclusion. Sensibly so — it’s a state that seems so rooted in our history, so integral to the soul of the United States, The American Struggle and the subsequent road to triumph. And particularly in Dallas, a city amidst a creative renaissance, did that sense of emphatic pride pour through every conversation that took place between the local and the misplaced Americans in town to celebrate Karl Lagerfeld’s 2013 Métiers d’Art show.

If last year’s event in Edinburgh moonlit as the regal wedding ceremony and reception that betrothed Karl Lagerfeld to the town in Scotland, Tuesday night’s show, held at Fair Park, a national historic landmark in Dallas, was a decadent vow renewal, officiating the paramount bond not between Chanel and any number of its previous preferred cities or even its place de naissance, Paris, but between Chanel and its heretofore most significant ally.

When I walked into the landmark-cum-convention center, it didn’t matter what would happen or how it would happen. It would be impressive. As one employee to Fair Park put it when asked whether the constructed-from-scratch bridge, linking two separate rooms (one, I might add, boasted a mechanical bull under which Mr. Lagerfeld spent a good portion of his night clapping for his friends while they held themselves up on the abruptly oscillating machinery with poise) was safe to walk on, she quipped, rolling her eyes to indicate how silly the question was that “Yeah, it’s Chanel.” Duh.

The night started in a large, abandoned, factory-sized makeshift drive-thru movie screening room. 70 vintage cars were parked across a long floor, appropriately illuminated by anything-but-hackneyed haystacks and neon lights. The cars waited for their passengers to occupy the seats and then, cue rolling credits, Karl Lagerfeld’s short film, The Return, commenced.

The short’s context seeded us in Dallas with a purpose: we were celebrating a rebirth. One manufactured by Stanley Marcus of Neiman Marcus in 1957, just three years after Coco Chanel reopened her business after a fifteen year closure prompted by World War II. Her return to fashion was turbulent if not dismal — the criticism was plenty, fans few but as evidenced by the film, American press stood behind an untrammeled understanding that Coco Chanel was a visionary.

In 1957, Marcus invited Chanel to receive The Neiman Marcus Award for Distinguished Service and following her acceptance, a surprise fashion show took place, chased by a lavish dinner. They say history repeats itself and so I suppose that 57 years later, we were fulfilling that prophecy – granted, with Frito-Lay bagged chili and Texan whiskey — but the ponchos were everything.

Karl Lagerfeld was famously quoted for saying “I love Texas. I love Texans” during the last WWD CEO Summit. Such a declaration would make perfect sense after having observed his version of Texas, constructed from the depths of his ineffable imagination.

A history lesson evoked the spirit of the Old West with a hint of Saloon-style dressing in knee-length robes that boasted virginal white ruffles, in addition to the surely-to-make-headlines Indian headdress that closed the show on Caroline de Maigret. Interspersed among less abrasive feather headbands were more traditional cowgirl cadences of bolo ties and the smart, unobtrusive use of denim. The mid-length skirts were paired with knee high boots that slouched, and the fringe ranged from suede to knit.

The unanimous, post-show response was an electrified, “Wow.”

You know how if you wear a pair of sunglasses, the lenses often saturate what you see? The sky will appear slightly bluer, the grass a bit greener, your skin a touch more sun-kissed. Though Coco Chanel once said that “good taste is something spiritual,” it’s also kind of like that pair of sunglasses. The collection could have functioned as a hideously obvious homage to the West. To denim, and cowboy boots and hats. But it was a far stretch from that. It was a pair of  sunglasses disguising a collection that told of gratitude, respect, admiration, amiability and excitement when considering authentic American style.

And to see not just American style, but American style underscored by the hallmark of French style, and the house that has both contributed to and created French style — that is ample enough reason for any Texan to feel proud.

REPLIES
  • The Stylish Standout

    As a born-and-raised Texan, you’re right, Leandra: We’re proud of the “creative renaissance” taking place in our beloved state. Loved this review of and perspective on Karl’s collection. Keep up the great work!

  • http://thoughtsofglam.com/ ThoughtsofGlam

    reoccurring theme seems to be the denim. I just posted about a great sale H&M is having and they had a lot of denim pieces, some were even $10-$15. It’s great to spend less on trends like these

    thoughtsofglam.com

  • Jenna

    This is so beautifully written and the images, wow. But also, “Duh” because “it’s Chanel”. Wish I was from Texas.

  • http://www.makeitadoubleplease.com/ Lauren Martin

    Living in Austin with many Dallas-based friends and bloggers, the event filled my feed the last few days. Thank you for sharing your experience of the event. So beautifully written!! It sounded like an amazing event.
    Xx
    Lauren M
    Make it a Double

  • Morgan

    Dallasite here! I may be biased, but I loved the show. I especially loved the reality that Karl has the power to bring the fashion set to the seemingly lesser Midwest.

  • earlyholo_scene

    Yuck, no.

    Am not loving this look.
    Am not loving the flagrant co-opting of Native American symbolism (a feather in the hair? really?)

  • Quinn Halman

    It’s a shame my invite got lost in the mail

  • Tomboy BKLYN

    Native American culture is not a trend or a fashion accessory. It is sad fashion still has not had the long overdue conversations regarding racism and cultural appropriation. Cowboys and Indians theme….. in 2013?!!!! Really??!!!

    I love my industry and I just want us to do and be better.

    • Robin

      Fashion holds the power to bring back the light of any era or culture through new vision and let it breathe again, even if just for a moment. That is a beautiful thing that calls for mass appreciation when done with respect and good taste. As a fellow Texan myself, I know there are misconceptions about the sartorial choices worn daily by us denizens, but, nonetheless we embrace them and even partake in them every now and then.

      The denim, boots, hats, prints, etc. are all still used very much here (therefore are still relevant and apart of culture today, 2013). There is a large percentage of people with lifestyles that reflect these photos because the clothing is literally essential in order to work day in and day out–with the exception of the feathers but I’ve known a few to hang them from their keychains or have them hang off of a boot, bag, headband, etc.

      Irrelevantly, where I see them most is when my grandmothers pluck the chickens (fresh chicken is THE best!), but other than that the feathers are unnecessary.

      I think it’s a beautiful gesture that Karl made towards the woman and house he holds so closely. Thank you Karl!

    • Laura F.

      Agreed. Some of these looks really raised my eyebrows with their clueless insensitivity. And some looks just made me roll my eyes. This was kind of a mish-mash — in the best pieces, I agree that Karl has successfully married the essence of Chanel with the vernacular fashion of the American West. But other looks just seemed like a Frenchy echo of what Ralph Lauren already does very well.

  • justis

    Texas isn’t SEEMINGLY rooted in American history–it is–and is still the basis for a lot of it. There’s much mythology surrounding Texas, but most of it stems from fact. Texas always has been and always will be relevant–Chanel or no Chanel. (This is probably my favorite Chanel show in ages. It’s hard for me to get on board with Karl most of the time)

    • Yolanda

      I agree, “It took a French house to do it, but Texas is back”

      Uuuuuhmmm, I don’t think Texas went anywhere, and also Leandra have you heard of something called SXSW?…..Now that’s something that’s put Texas on the cultural map long term, not a quick fashion fling with Chanel’s name is on it.

  • madeleine

    Do you mind? I’m (ranch) Dressing!!!!! LOVED that Caroline closed the show! Such a show stopper. http://madeleineholth.com

  • http://blogaboutdesign.com/ B.A.D Blog About Design

    Love this as well. I’m always in the mood for a Chanel Hoedown, hey now!

    ALL NEW B.A.D blogaboutdesign.com

  • Selena Delgado

    Beautiful. The mark of talent in a design house is it’s ability to translate and merge the culture of others and create an authentic piece of wearable art. Only Chanel possesses the ability to immerse 31 rue de Cambon with true Texan hospitality

  • Giuliana

    one of the best of your works!

  • http://icarolavia.blogspot.com.es/ Icaro Lavia

    Superb post, so incredibly well written! I really enjoyed it, I’m kinda obsessed with this collection, too!

    Leandra, you’re the ultimate fashion guru!

    http://icarolavia.blogspot.com.es

  • samantha

    Leandra, you transported me with your words to fantasy land… you are such a talented writer

  • Bianca Vivion

    Leandra, today I got accepted into Columbia in New York and I wanted to let you know it’s women like you (actually it is you most of all… And Beyoncé) that make me wanna be great. Such a talented writer, I’m working towards the same dreams. Great post, once again. Xoxo

  • Guest

    I’ve got a texasgsm…

  • Ximena Puente Bahnsen

    I had a Texasgsm… :x

  • Poulette

    Didn’t isabel Marant do this already last year? Granted not in this ultra luxurious kind of way, but it felt like a more modern take on this history. I even brought a cowboy shirt in a vintage shop (from the 50s, man men had small arms in those days! ) to partake in this trend.

    And of course Karl loves Texas! After Russia or the Middle East, it must be his biggest market.

    But for all of the above grouch – fest, this post proves once again why Leandra you are one of the best writers in the business…. Brava

  • Keri

    This collection is so contrived… Karl seems to be trying hard but just doesn’t “get” the west.