I was en route to the Chanel show when I realized my heart was racing. As the car sped down Rue De Rivoli, past the Jardin de Tuileries and towards Grand Palais, I felt my stomach start to knot up. When I pulled up to the pulsing crush of people attempting to squeeze themselves into the imposing marble façade of the building, I finally understood why I was having such a physical reaction to a fashion show. In Paris, Chanel is so much more than fashion -- it is an institution. As I squeezed my way through the crowd I could feel the anticipation building: What would Karl Lagerfeld do next?
The enigmatic Karl Lagerfeld is the artistic director and designer of the Chanel brand, and has become an icon in his own right. A lover of spectacle, invitees to this Spring/Summer show were clearly looking to be impressed. As I slid through security, heart still pounding, I marveled at the ornate ceiling before panning down to the massive wind turbines peppering the exceptionally blue, exceptionally long runway. To see the modern architecture of these wind turbines contrasted with the 17th-century venue was both stunning and eerie. The trance-y music washing over the crowd and the brightness of the room made it feel like I'd stepped into an alternate universe: Karl's universe.
I took my seat and watched paparazzi clamor over Kanye West and Jennifer Lopez. French style icons like Laetitia Casta and Lou Doillon flitted about the grand room, and I felt totally overcome by the level of production -- we definitely weren't in New York anymore. Just when I thought it couldn't get any better the music picked up and the show began. Models, just specks in the distance, began to materialize on the far-end of the runway. Running some kind of fashionable flight pattern, scores of models resplendent in Chanel made the long journey to the end of the runway and back.
With 80 looks in total, the Chanel show felt like it was teeming with energy. So many different design stories floated down the runway: printed boleros were layered on top of dresses, chunky striped platforms were paired with everything from sweet day-dresses to tweedy pantsuits and transparent Lucite hats felt like a fresh take on the classic Chanel wide-brim. Inspired by the 'windmill' motif, the three-dimensional blossoms and embroidery jumping off the finale dresses were a definite highlight. Between the wind turbines, the venue and the breadth of the collection the message was clear: Chanel has energy, and lots of it.
After the show, buzzing invitees poured onto the street in front of Grand Palais and struggled to navigate swaths of street-style photographers. Slipping into idling town cars, the fashionable set made their getaway. I grabbed a few friends outside and we teetered in our high-heels to L'Avenue, the fashion canteen on the Avenue Montaigne -- the home of Parisian luxury. Settling on espressos and a plate piled with crème, strawberries and bright raspberries, I couldn't help thinking that Mr. Lagerfeld would approve.
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