Chanel’s Haute Couture

Karl Lagerfeld shipped tree by tree into the Grand Palais for Chanel’s Haute Couture Spring Summer 2013 show. He was dreaming of Weimar, sylvan hub of German Romanticism in the late eighteenth century, home to Goethe and Schiller.
The romance of Weimar infused the couture collection whose substance was glitter and shine. The daytime tweeds sparkled, the evening looks were a hymn to the sequin. The silhouette was determined by a feature Lagerfeld called “frame shoulders.” Sometimes they looked articulated, almost like armour. Other times they were fichu-like. They were intended, the designer explained, to highlight the neck, rising swanlike from the shoulders, like “the cleavage thing from the Second Empire.” When he inserted a top in luminous white or silver into his frame shoulders, Lagerfeld got himself a couture reflector. “Shine is beautiful for the summer,” he said. “It lights the face.”
Anything that looked like a print was actually embroidery—the man-hours involved in such technical feats clearly involved rigours of another kind.

Beautiful as the collection was—and ending as it did with two brides, the designer’s poke at the gay-marriage controversy currently roiling France—its most striking feature was its melancholic mood. Hair and make-up featured feathery effects, as though the models were birds in the woods, but a Miss Havisham quality crept in toward the end, as the feathers settled over shoulders and trailed behind dresses. “There’s nothing more elegant than a certain kind of melancholia,” Lagerfeld mused. And surely there is nothing that induces melancholia like the transience of beauty.