Chanel F/W 2016
Chanel F/W 2016

Once again, Karl Lagerfeld has come and gone at Paris’ Grand Palais, leaving in his wake memories of another massive Chanel runway presentation, the litter of foolishly discarded programme’s, and the overwhelming fragrance of the brand’s most popular perfume. Chanel is the most sought after ticket of the entire week, if not for the clothes at least for the spectacle. The surprise this season, however, is that there was no spectacle. There was no ultra-elaborate set costing millions of euros to construct. Instead, there were chairs; 2,000 of them, set up in neat rows, salon style, between which models walked. There was no grand parade, no waiters serving espresso, nor stewards checking seating assignments. Just chairs and models.

The simple set was a nod to Coco Chanel’s 1960’s presentations at 31 rue Cambon. Many of the looks referenced that period as well, which isn’t surprising. There was also plenty of new styling imposed upon old silhouettes. I doubt Coco ever envisioned a puffy jacket, but there was one with her name on it this morning. I’m not sure what she would have to say about scarves designed to look like the sleeves of sweaters, either, but hey, it seems a popular element.

As always, this is a huge collection, 93 looks total. Rather than trying to describe each and every look, which would be impossible, let’s just divide it up into what works and what doesn’t.

What works:

  • The hats, when they’re done in pink tweed orf adorned with peals. Some of pearl-lined chin straps as well, so one doesn’t lose the hat while out on a blustery shopping trip. Karl likes hats. Coco loved hats. Unfortunately, no one wears hats like this unless it’s a costume event. Rather sad, actually.
  • Pearls. Coco loved a single strand of pearls. Karl loves multiple strands of pearls and layers them on rather thick at times. Naturally, they look best against classically styled black dresses, but they work against the pink tweed as well.
  • Pink tweed.  The pink tweed suit is as iconic for Lagerfeld as the black dress was for Coco. He plays around with a lot of different fabrics on the suits this season, getting creative with different textures on the pockets and the various accessories he chooses to go along with them. Coco’s suiting was already a hit long before Karl came along, but he’s taken ownership of pink tweed more than anything else.
  • Black leather lacing on white chiffon dresses. Yes, the dresses themselves are way too familiar, having appeared in the couture show three years ago. What he does with them, though, hacking them in half and then putting them back together with leather lacing, gives them an entirely new feel that is much more edgy and contemporary.
  • Big, bulky, layered men’s looks. There’s a bit of a nordic feel to the heavy tunics Karl puts on his men, and his two-toned trench coat separates the stylish from the boring. I would wear either if he decides to do them in black rather than the brown presented here, but either way, it is still a very good look.

What doesn’t work:

  • The hats, when they’re done in gold or matte black. With the wrong fabric, they come off looking more like one is wearing a wheel cover on their head. Fortunately, these looks were in the minority because it could have become quite irritating very quickly.
  • Senseless applique buttons. I’ve no idea what Karl was thinking when he created these piece. Maybe he hadn’t had his medication yet that day. The buttons are just something additional on which one can snag their clothes, and knits already have enough of that challenge in the first place.
  • Black and white floral print. Specifically, look number 47. There is far too much of the bland background showing on the print for it to be remotely attractive. Pair that with the hideous silver opera gloves and a faux sweater tie around the waist and the entire look is nothing short of atrocious. Mercifully, there are only three pieces with this print, but none of them are attractive.
  • Hooded puffer jackets. I get it, puffer jackets are the huge trend in outerwear this season and when they’re long and reasonably svelte they’re not bad. But Karl tosses some hoods on a couple of them that takes the look from luxury to discount bargain bin in a heart beat. There are knockoffs of this look already on discount shelves.
  • Anything with metallic gold. Just, no, stay away. Karl uses the bright, glaring gold for contrast, and when it’s not metallic it’s not too terribly bad. The metallic factor removes any sense of refinement, though, and takes the ensembles from luxury to costume. They show up about a half dozen times scattered throughout the collection and none of them work.

There weren’t any real standouts in the handbag department. In fact, there were a surprising number of models who weren’t carrying one at all. If that’s what one is wanting, this may not be the best season to make a new purchase.

On the whole, this was a much more quiet, understated show than what we are accustomed to seeing from Karl Lagerfeld’s version of Chanel. I can’t say that’s a bad thing. Okay, so guests in one half of the set had to sit and wait while models walked the other half the set, and allowing guests to bring their little yappy dogs along with them might be a questionable choice, but other than that this was about as quiet a Chanel show as we’ve seen in the past ten or so years. Rather enjoyable, for a change.

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