In Paris, at the very newly renovated Ritz Hotel, where Gabrielle Chanel both lived and died, the house held its annual Métier d’Art show yesterday in three separate sittings at the hotel’s brasserie. There was a viewing in the morning, replete with coffee and treats, one in the afternoon with tea, cookies and sandwiches and an evening dinner-plus-show at which I was present (we ate sea bass and il flotante).
The show, a celebration of Chanel’s manifold artisans, has been held in Tokyo, New York, Monte-Carlo, London, Moscow, Shanghai, Byzance, Bombay, Edinburgh, Dallas, Salzburg, Rome and Paris. Here, at a grand and opulent hotel that has come to define no fashion house quite like it does Chanel, it was close to home. I wondered how the ceilings could be so high, bathroom sink faucets so gold and bedroom sheets so exquisitely soft. Reality was suspended for an important 48 hours.
But never mind me, the show went on!
The ultimate takeaway — beyond tweed jackets that, impressively, do not get old or feel stale; refreshing metallic-knee cap leggings; jovial red floral head pieces; and a genuinely stunning celebrity line-up that comprised a portion of the show’s models — had nothing to do with clothes and everything to do with the life you choose to live in your clothes.
We’ve spent the greater half of five years trying to figure out, as a community and a system and an industry, how the fashion show will continue to exist in the era of mass documentation. Will people still care about the clothes? Travel to see them six months in advance? By continuing to make good clothes — to never sacrifice that for spectacle — Chanel has explicitly chosen to sell a lifestyle. This is not a novel concept, but how frequently is it executed properly?
The extravagant party on display last night could have easily been out of a scene from Midnight in Paris. There we were, seated around circular tables in three conjoined Ritz dining rooms, clinking our glasses and clapping our hands as Pharrell and Lily-Rose Depp and Cara Delevingne and a panoply of familiar Chanel model faces sauntered around the tables, winking and joking, even throwing things and giving each other high fives. A waitress stood in a doorway twirling and dipping some of the models. It embodied the kind of joie de vivre I’d expect from a grand gala between the very same historic brasserie walls among the ritziest proprietors of the hotel’s history: Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Dali, Proust. It was an absolute delight to be among a life that I knew did not belong to me.
We’ve — I’ve — been confronted with a lot of adversity lately. Deflated and confused, grasping for support and turning to natural healing methods, which have become as prevalent as mainstream fashion trends. Physically and psychologically, we’re in a constant state of necessity-to-self-improve. But what if, what if, for just one moment, we say never mind to reality and used fashion for its purpose: to delight and inspire and escape. If we closed our eyes and visualized those incredible garments draped across our bodies, then swayed back and forth, eyes still closed, as if there at The Ritz.
Chanel’s tactic is so satisfying in its simplicity: slap a smile on the model’s face! Notice her walking not for her clothes, but for her energy, simply punctuated by the dress. Stop for a second, take a deep breath, pretend you’re somewhere else (in the clothes!) if you have to and just let go. Dance.
Runway photos via Vogue.com. Feature photo by Stephane Cardinale – Corbis/Corbis via Getty Image. Carousel photo by PATRICK KOVARIK/AFP/Getty Images.