During New York Fashion Week, I am always trying to figure out which show feels the most like a parody of a show. The most like something a Martin Short character would be the designer of in a 1980s comedy or on SNL: the ones with ridiculous shoes no one can actually walk in or like, I don’t know, a fat, knit bag that you wear as a diaper dress with two holes for your legs (Martin Short as designer: “My most genius creation. This is not a purse, but a home for your body, your soul, your car keys, your gum — you don’t need to wear underwear with it!”), with somber music over a Soviet-techno beat and the odd strip of dialogue pulled from a science-fiction movie interspersed throughout. These are the shows you either definitely want to bring a non-fashion-familiar friend to so they really feel like they “went to fashion week,” or, you want to steer them as far away as possible so that they can continue to respect what you love.
Paris has a lot of this. Comme de Garcons showed what was essentially a human vase. Undercover had people dressed as giant birds. Sacai had triangular, mascot-body puffers and at Vivienne Westwood, a hat with meter-long conical horns. Show me this kind of thing in New York and I bite back with whatever the verbal manifestation of an ellipsis is. But in Paris, I am wide-eyed and thrilled. None of it is a parody. It’s authentic (an overused word, but necessary here). It is, as so many people told me it would be, “the real deal.” Which brings us to Chanel.
A rocket sat right smack in the middle of Le Grand Palais — a glass-ceilinged venue so magnificent you could easily forget a show was happening below it if you craned your neck and looked straight up. I texted a friend across the room from me if it was embarrassing to take a picture of the rocket because you know, first time at Chanel and all. “Absolutely not. Have you seen the section next to you?” she asked.
I looked. The bleachers a few feet over were filled with loyal customers of the brand, a diverse smattering of women from all over the world, decked out in double-C’s, boucle and Karl’s greatest hits. All of their phones were up, pointed at that rocket. And actually, so was everyone else’s in the enormous space. No one is too cool or important or tenured for a Chanel spectacle, it turns out. Everyone wanted that shot and the clothes that followed.
The collection was very fun, “very Chanel.” There were rhinestone-covered go-go boots that will make you forget about all pumps come fall, 1960s hairdos and hemlines to pair with your cardigan-topped suits. You heard it it here first: rimless ski goggles will replace sunglasses. (In certain circles.) My favorite bits of the collection were the biker shorts underneath skirts — many in tweed, at least one pair in denim. I guess if you’re going to space you have to worry about gravity exposing your skivvies; shorts underneath add real chic security. As for that which scratched the itch of parody, puffer-packed space blankets began below the earlobes and held their triangle shape around the body. If we’re talking good-tacky, few have earned the right of playground like Karl Lagerfeld. The man, the crowd, the fashion were all having a good time.
It is so nice to get hit, over and over, with a place like Paris and its fashion. I forgot after being in New York for too long what it’s like to be the opposite of jaded. You should have seen me at the end of the show with my phone at the ready — there was a countdown from ten, and the rocket took off.
Photos via Vogue Runway.