The fashion world associates every Chanel catwalk show with an extravagant set.Each season all eyes are on Lagerfeld for how he will upstage his last amazing set..In the case of the latest Chanel Métiers d’Art Pre-Fall 2016 collecton Karl Lagerfeld brought the city of Paris to Rome—the iconic Italian film studio, Cinecittà Roma.Lagerfeld rebuilt Paris on Teatro 5, the soundstage in the legendary Cinecitta studios that Fellini referred to as his “ideal place, a place to be filled, a world to be created.” (And this Paris was so exquisitely detailed that, like Rome, it was surely not built in a day). Lagerfeld’s models emerged from a Métro stop into a typical Parisian place, but there was a huge map of Rome to greet them. And the traditional French brasserie on the square was called Chez l’Ami Italien. When the clothes themselves got dressy and architectural, there were impressive echoes of Roman alta moda’s glory days, especially in a reversed cape which folded like bird’s wings in the kind of dramatic silhouette that characterised Roberto Capucci’s work.
The exclusive –the exquisite master touch- of this production was its monochrome set, black and white, but with the silvery sheen of old film stock. Lagerfeld explained that sets for movies filmed in black and white, from the silent onwards, were actually built in black and white. What was remarkable here was that the tonal gradations one remembers from those old films were flawlessly duplicated. He insisted that the set was a practical necessity because the clothes he’d designed would have been lost against a coloured backdrop.
And the monochrome mood of the clothes did more than mirror the black and white set. Big coats over slim shift dresses over lace stockings with mules or flats, trompe l’oeil sweater details, lots of black leather, smoky eyes and a sex kitten Bardot ‘do’ gave the models the mien of beat girls in smoky St Germain cellars as the Fifties turned into the Sixties…There were metallic embroideries and pleating on caped shapes, delicate faggoting techniques on slip dresses, and, at one point, an ovoid, coral pink–petaled dress that seemed to nod in the direction of the couturiers of Rome—Capucci, perhaps. Considering that all the people who put their expert hands to this collection must have finished it in the terrible aftermath of the attacks on Paris, its quality as well as its beauty reads as testament to what the French are so good at.