Creative Director Karl Lagerfeld returns to Hamburg for the French Maison’s Pre-Fall 2018 collection.
Before you start speculating, the Chanel Paris-Hamburg fashion presentation wasn’t a homecoming show to suggest Lagerfeld’s retirement from fashion. On the contrary, the Kaiser is still going strong at age 84, and here is the show to prove it.
Held at the city’s new Elbphilharmonie concert hall, Lagerfeld and team chose the monumental venue for appropriate reasons: The collection drew inspiration from the Port of Hamburg, otherwise fondly known in the Germany as its Gateway to the World; and the state-of-the-art landmark is – but, of course – located on the River Elbe, overlooking the world famous shipping hub.
A Tribute To Tradition
Each Chanel pre-Fall collection is dedicated to the Maison’s prestigious Métiers d’Art, a group of established Chanel-owned fashion workshops, which the company acquired with a goal to perpetuate each atelier’s skills, crafts and contributions to high fashion.
The Paris-Hamburg collection opened with a series of seafaring styles, namely fisherman sweaters (made for him and her – no, less) crafted by Scottish knitwear label Barrie – the only non-French atelier within Chanel’s Métiers d’Art.
Made in classic navy, these chunky pullovers were worn sexily (and on its own) on girls, while guys channelled its signature gentleman/grandpa chic. There were also a range of navy and white knits, which saw the toasty appeal of sweater dressing switch seamlessly from day to night mode, especially when paired with sheer midi-length skirts.
No marine-inspired collection is complete without the uniform appeal of sailor classics. One of the key nautical pieces in the collection was the ubiquitous sailor pants. Making their first impressions on the male models who opened the show sporting these fashionable flares with the elegant fishermen sweaters, they subsequently showed up in the womenswear range in permutations ranging from classic menswear fabrics to woven tartan and tweed, worker-style denim and more. Lagerfeld cropped their hemlines just above the ankle (or higher) for that touch of modernity and even designed them as dress pant substitutes for three tuxedo ensembles.
Mademoiselle Coco Chanel’s iconic skirt suit made its appearance too, but with super-short hemlines to boot. The little skirts were teamed with the brand’s trademark jackets cut double-breasted and boxy, nipped gently at the waist, or, cut loose and fashioned in a cardigan-inspired style. The latter approach saw the skirt suits with a more modest and not to mention, wearable, above-the-knee hemline. But for the brave fashion set, Lagerfeld offered one-piece jacket dresses, which also championed one of the collection’s recurring style genres – Mod.
For the uninitiated, Hamburg was also once home to Britain’s Fab Four, circa1960 to 1962. It was in this seaport city where The Beatles, then comprising of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Stuart Sutcliffe and Pete Best (Ringo Starr joined the band in 1962 when Best was fired) honed their music careers, while performing in Kaiserkeller – a music club near Hamburg’s infamous red-light district, Reeperbahn. Back in the day, Lennon and gang were known to sport sailor caps, which later earned the affectionate moniker, Beatle cap.
In this collection, Lagerfeld accessorized each and every model in one of these caps made by the Métiers d’Art atelier, Maison Michel. He also reimagined a series of black leather ensembles, inspired by Sixties British rocker/motorbike subculture – think the sartorial likes of the Ton-up boys, perhaps?
Behind The Seams
One of the most charming qualities of Lagerfeld’s Chanel is each collection’s thematic attributes. From the ready-to-wear stable to bags, shoes and costume jewellery, every collection’s inspiration is always cleverly carried through and interspersed into the designs of its product categories. Some even boast eccentric, tongue-in-cheek flair that earns the collector’s item label.
For the Paris-Hamburg collection, tweed fabrics were created with wool interwoven with velvet ribbons and lurex threads. “Echoing the network of canals and bridges in the city of Hamburg”, the brand’s website further described the bold hues of these materials as an homage to ‘evoke the colourful freight containers stacked on the city’s docks.’
These multicoloured weaves were more than just astute skills applied to woven tweeds, they were also fashioned into a series of fun colour-blocking knitwear ensembles, which made for chic and fuss-free daywear. In some of the evening looks, the freight container theme was further accomplished via the embroidery of oblong paillettes, which embellished dress panels and gloves alike.
One of the most impressive artisanal touches however, was the savoir-faire behind the feather-trim dresses, which Lagerfeld designed for a gamut of immaculate evening looks. Skilled and dexterous artisans hand-painted stripes on delicate feathers using ink that was diluted in water. The result was an astonishing appeal that recalled the linear motifs synonymous with maritime fashion. Watch the process, here.
The Making-of A Look
With every Chanel look that Lagerfeld sketches, there will be an entire team of experts who would further refine and improvise the designer’s unique visions.
“Without great ateliers, you cannot make a good collection,” cited Lagerfeld who also added: “Virginie Viard (Lagerfeld’s longstanding right-hand woman) and I know exactly which will be the best (maison) to interpret each one of my sketches. There is always such a creative dynamic between the Studio and the expertise of the Chanel’s Métiers d’Art whom work on my collections. Gradually, as the silhouette evolves, the embroiders, the details and the finishes take on a new dimension.”
Look 64 from the Paris-Hamburg collection is one such example, starting out with the embroidery maison Lesage who was picked to realise the tactile nautical knot impressions on Lagerfeld’s sketched patterned trousers.
Achieved with 2000 bowl-shaped beads, 7000 bicone beads (and requiring up to 400 man hours) to see its intricate fruition, the delicately embroidered organza panels of the trousers are then transferred from the Lesage workshops to the Chanel ready-to-wear Ateliers for sewing/assembling.
Lesage was also responsible for creating the look’s satin blouse embroidered straps, in addition to the strip panels on the wool cap; which were all later sent to the millinery Masion Michele for completion.
From life buoy-inspired evening purses to drawstring duffle bags, feminine anchor earrings, knitted sailor caps… The Paris-Hamburg accessory range is full of nautical surprises.
Port and Starboard
Celebrities galore, either side.
All images courtesy of Chanel.