The designer conjured a replica of the Temple of Poseidon in the Galerie Courbe at the Grand Palais, where couture-clad guests struck tourist poses against a movie-set backdrop of crumbling seaside ruins.
Banks of powerful lights created the illusion of Mediterranean sun, in contrast to the gray and drizzly sky that lurked behind the venue’s skylight, bathing a parade of modern-day goddesses strapped into graphic high-heeled gladiator sandals. After all, Lagerfeld said, it’s all about make-believe.
“It had nothing to do with a country. Reality is of no interest to me. I use what I like. My Greece is an idea,” the designer, who skipped postshow interviews this season, said in notes provided by Chanel.
He worked a pastoral vibe via tweed tunics with frayed edges, burlap pleated skirts and coarse cream knits, which he contrasted with a Midas-like trove of jewelry and embellishment, such as gold coin buttons, amphora-shaped earrings, jeweled hair clips and a killer pair of sunglasses trimmed with gold laurel leaves.
Echoing the fictional setting, the palette ran from Earth colors to pale mineral tones, including summery whites and pale pastels, with a smattering of navy and black — this was Paris, after all.
A knit column dress with trailing black shoulder straps came in a pottery-style terra-cotta-and-black frieze pattern, while the fabric strips handwoven into a tweed tunic produced a perfect shade of Ionian blue. Crinkled crepe toga dresses, topped with sequin-encrusted corset belts, were as pristine white as Greek seaside village houses.
Lagerfeld nodded to a different era’s obsession with the Grecian aesthetic with jersey nymph gowns that brought to mind early-20th-century dancer Isadora Duncan. Pleated palazzo pants and ample tweed coats also projected a sense of ease, in stark contrast to the hobble skirts of his recent spring couture show.
“I see Greece as the origin of beauty and culture, where there was a wonderful freedom of movement that has since vanished,” he explained.
Of course, freedom of movement these days might also be read as the liberty to navigate between high-street and couture — as attested by the presence of H&M and Topshop on the red carpet at this week’s Met Gala in New York.
In keeping with the times, Lagerfeld proposed a deconstructed approach to luxury, pairing a simple white eyelet cotton cropped top and pants with a chic tweed jacket, or contrasting his burlap skirts with bodices dripping with beads, cabochon jewels, sequins and pearls.
He injected a dash of hip-hop swagger with a gold leather sweatshirt and shorts, gilded arm bracelets and body-con tube dresses in ribbed intarsia knits.
“The criteria of beauty in ancient, then classical, Greece still holds true. There have never been more beautiful representations of women. Or more beautiful columns. The entire renaissance, in fact, was based on Antiquity. It is really about the youth of the world in all its power and unpredictability — just like the unforgiving gods,” he said.
Per tradition, there was a link between the season’s theme and the personal mythology of founder Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, whose strong personality and glittering circle of friends has been a steady font of inspiration to Lagerfeld since he took over as couturier in 1983.
The invitation featured a headless Greco-Roman statue of Venus, which is kept in Chanel’s apartment at the brand’s headquarters on Rue Cambon. The show notes pointed out that Chanel also designed the costumes for French poet Jean Cocteau’s revival of the Greek tragedy “Antigone” in 1922.
Lagerfeld is no stranger to a Greek theme. His photographic oeuvre includes a series of glass panels portraying “The Voyage of Ulysses,” as well as his interpretation of the classic romantic novel “Daphnis and Chloe,” featuring models including Baptiste Giabiconi and Bianca Balti in pleated white togas.
“I’m expressing through fashion a fascination I’ve had since childhood. The first book I read was Homer,” said Lagerfeld, who discovered the story of the Trojan war aged seven in a volume set “bound in slightly lilac-hued leather with Greek motifs stamped in gold and a neoclassic graphic style.”
In an age of Insta-gratification, it made for a powerful ode to culture with a capital C. After all, who still studies the Ancient Greeks today — let alone references Minoan civilization in their show notes?
The famously erudite Lagerfeld, who owns more than 300,000 books, had a word of caution for younger generations as they hurtle into a technology-obsessed future, while the established political order crumbles around them.
“I’m suggesting going back to move forward,” said Lagerfeld. “To create the future, you have to pay attention to the past.”
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