What Did She Do? Consult With Them?

by Long Nguyen

December 2018 is a big month for the French fashion mega brand Chanel in the U.S.  On December 4th, Karl Lagerfeld will hold the house’s 15th annual Métiers d’Art at the Temple of Dendur inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.  Since its debut in 2002, Shanghai, Moscow, Paris, Salzburg, Hamburg, and Rome have hosted this pre-fall show that features the artisanal work of the various specialized Parisian handicraft industries such as the embroiderer Lesage or the feather and floral maker Lemarié now all consolidated under the Chanel corporate umbrella. 

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Closed since 2016, the expanded five floors 14,000 square feet Chanel flagship store on 57th Street, the largest store in the U.S. also reopens after a complete renovation by Peter Marino with special editions 2.55 bag with iconic New York souvenir charms, two one of a kind 11.12 bag in crocodile with diamond encrusted hardware and off course a new scent specific to the store, Les Exclusifs de Chanel 1957 as well as merchandises from the resort 2019 collection shown in Paris early this May. 

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Cruise or resort clothes usually delivered to the stores around mid November and stay on the retail floors until February has now grown into a big business that can represent one of the most important collection of the selling season eclipsing the habitual fall and spring regular show collections due to the resort clothes staying longer on the sales floors at full price range.  Deep inside the state of the technology building in Pantin housing the Chanel archives on the outskirts of Paris, Odile Premel, the archivist responsible for the house’s entire range of products from the first perfume bottles (No. 5) to the gamut of haute couture, ready to wear garments and jewelry all neatly stored and marked inside temperature controlled and computer accessed moving vaults. 

The archive serves not only as a repository of the multifaceted history of the Chanel company – the principle icons, themes, products and perhaps also the mystique that built the brand but also as the ingredient that the house can utilize and transform into different messages each season but all stemming from the same source. 

Inside one of the shiny black drawers under a glass cover is a sailor blouse in pale beige silk jersey, originally made in 1916 – the oldest piece in the entire archive.  This sailor blouse was designed three years prior in 1913 and launched in Deauville as part of a small series of outfits inspired by sailor suits made in easily wearable and practical fabrics such as wool and silk jersey. Thus, marking the first-ever collection in between the fall and spring official seasons.  In fall 1919, Gabrielle Chanel presented a larger collection made for those traveling to Biarritz for the holiday seasons as well as spa towns along the Riviera and Venice beaches. By 1933 the designer added suiting and evening dresses for the holidays and cruise ships passages. A frequent passenger on cruise ships herself, Chanel knew what wardrobe would be necessary for such long trips. In one of her stopovers in Monte Carlo in 1929, she discovered the village of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin and fell for a property that eventually became La Pausa, her Riviera summer property that the Chanel corporation recently purchased from an American owner.  

Several photographs of this Riviera summer villa feature its grand circular white staircase and large backyard garden, hung on the walls in one of the many rooms at the Chanel Patrimoine building.  This past May La Pausa is reincarnated to serve as an essential signifier of the Chanel brand linking its past to the present, like much of the other Chanel ‘heritage’ stored in Pantin - a resurrection from the archive to make the heritage alive again for today’s audience.  The current manifestation of La Pausa is the name of the 400 feet faux cruise ship that took over a month and a half to construct off-site. It took two weeks to assemble the ship inside the Grand Palais as a center stage for this cruise show, the latest incarnation since 2,000 when Chanel separated cruise collection and dedicated with its proper show.   

Sounds of waves, seagulls, and rumblings of a busy seaport readying for a major departure of a giant ship included a loud whistle calling on passengers to embark can be heard moments before the first model exited from inside the giant ‘ocean liner’. Walking down a gangplank and ramp wearing a white boatneck sailor long sleeve tee, black and white striped pants and white beret - the mood set the tone for a sea-bound journey. The sailing trip attire included round shoulder cropped jackets, short skirts in pastel cotton tweeds, Scottish cashmere multicolor striped sweaters and skirts, high waist sailor pants, plenty of pearls, metallic leathers, light dresses for the night, and of course the absolutely required accessory - straw, sun or beret hats.

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Casual and sportswear silhouettes adhering to the overall nautical theme dominated. Even the classic Chanel suits were rendered with lightness radiating an air of less formality and there were nods to streetwear. Shredded denim capri pants and cropped jeans jackets were seen in full panorama when all the models descended for a finale marching to the disco sound of the Pet Shop Boys’ Go West.


Photographed by Fabien Montique.

Style Director: Long Nguyen.

Models: J Moon at MP, Paris and Bibi at New Madison, Paris.

Hair and Makeup by Pauline Caputo.

Casting by Nicolas Bianciotto.

Producer: William Romeo.

Beauty notes: Boy de Chanel Foundation 20 Light and 60 Light Deep, Le Teint Ultra Tenue 20 Beige and 40 Beige Rose, Joues Contrastes Powder Blush 360 HyperFresh and 64 Pink Explosion, Les Beiges Eyeshadow Palette Light, Illusion D’Ombre Convoitise, Stylo Yeux Waterproof Espresso, Rouge Allure Velvet Peaceful and La Favorite, Rouge Coco Stylo Panorama and Lettre, and Le Vernis Nail Color Ballerina and Organdi all by Chanel. Elixir Ultime Oil Serum, Discipline Anti Frizz Smoothing Spray and Discipline Blow Dry Smoothing Primer by Kérastase.