On Tuesday, Chanel hosted its Fall/Winter 2017 ready-to-wear fashion show at its usual venue, the Grand Palais in Paris. Over the years, Karl Lagerfeld and Chanel have transformed the exhibition hall into whatever they want: a data storage center, an airport, un supermarché.
This time around, it seems Chanel is sick of the terrestrial and — perhaps inspired by NASA’s announcement that there are seven new planets — decided to create the Chanel space station.
During the event, fashion editors tweeted videos of the launch, in awe that the “rocket” actually achieved “liftoff.”
Yes, that rocket ship at the Chanel show at the Grand Palais did actually take off … pic.twitter.com/GFCwAe6P0c
— stuart emmrich (@StuartEmmrichNY) March 7, 2017
While the set was impressive by fashion show standards, it certainly wasn’t anything near the kind of launch that would happen at Cape Canaveral. Dr. Mitchell Walker, professor of aerospace engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology, said the Chanel “rocket” wasn’t really a spacecraft at all. Instead, he said, it was a movie studio’s version of one.
“It’s not a rocket; it’s a hydraulic lift,” Walker told Yahoo Style. “It has lights to look like fire, and smoke like you’d see used at Halloween to make it look like an actual liftoff, but it’s not.”
Based on a video from the show that Walker viewed, he explained that for the rocket à la Chanel (which he guessed is about 50 feet tall), creators positioned a crane in the middle of the craft to pull it up slowly. There was no real fire or blastoff — just lights and smoke to create that illusion, Walker said. “A real launch would have killed everyone in the room,” he said.
“For a rocket to take off, exhaust has to leave the vessel really fast — faster than speed of sound,” he said. “In this, you can see smoke coming down, and you’d never be able to see that. It obviously had to be safe for the ladies to stand around it.”
Still, Walker said, the creators of the makeshift rocket paid great attention to detail — including using lights and sparklers at the bottom of the vessel to imitate fire, as well as adding an umbilical connection that dropped from the rocket after “liftoff.”
Walker estimated the Chanel rocket cost about $80,000 to put together — a small sum compared with the $50 million it would cost to launch a SpaceX rocket. Ella Atkins, professor of aerospace engineering at the University of Michigan, also said that figure was reasonable. But Paul Clay, founder of his eponymous event and design consulting firm, said that figure was “way too low,” though he was reluctant to guess without more information.
“If I had to make a wild guess I would say quarter of a million at least. Probably much much more,” Clay said via email. “Could easily run a million or more.”
If that number seems hefty, it’s not — at least not by Chanel standards. Chanel, which handles its set production in-house and did not comment to the Yahoo Style reporters at the show, spent a reported U.S. $1.6 million on a 2014 fashion show held on a “Chanel island” in Dubai.
Chanel, in all its splendor, certainly has money to blow — in this case, literally.
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Alexandra Mondalek is a writer for Yahoo Style and Beauty. Follow her on Twitter @amondalek.