Published 5 years ago
KARL LAGERFELD always maintained that his childhood was different from other little boys’. He read “Buddenbrooks,” all 243,000 words of it, when he was 8 and told his mother he should have a valet. She told little Karl he talked too much.
Valerio Mezzanotti for The New York Times
Clearly, Mutti Lagerfeld had some idea whom she was dealing with. Mr. Lagerfeld has never stopped talking, and the playgrounds have only become bigger. Think of the Place Vendôme as a giant coral of jewels: a dozen or more shops, all in one square, presided over by Napoleon’s statue. And so conveniently close to the Ritz! Imagine the scenarios.
And that’s what Mr. Lagerfeld did. For Chanel’s haute couture show here Tuesday night, he recreated the Place Vendôme inside the Grand Palais, tracing the facade in neon, and instead of Napoleon, he hoisted Coco Chanel up on the column.
Personally, I’m beginning to think Mr. Lagerfeld might be the Woody Allen of couture. Most of the sets he concocts for Chanel, at crazy expense, are stereotypes, trinkets that have plopped off a souvenir charm bracelet. I can’t help grinning at his shtick, but I know he’s better than this. In fact, the best show he gives during couture is up in the Chanel studio when he is doing a fitting and you find yourself scraping your jaw off his desk, because the dress is at once so simple and beautiful.
In the stifling vastness of the Grand Palais, at 10:45 p.m., that’s not exactly your reaction.
On the other hand, Mr. Lagerfeld is constantly revealing things about himself through his collections, whether he admits it or not. This was pretty somber stuff, melancholic even — and that’s not an uninteresting thought, given his 50-plus years in fashion and the crumbling ramparts of sophisticated taste. Dior, after dismissing John Galliano, decided to go ahead with a couture show, using the house’s studio team.
Rather than do something modest — focused, say, on tailoring — or even skipping a season until a new designer could be hired, the house took the risk of exposing inferior work. The poorly designed clothes, in tutti-frutti shades, didn’t look, well, Dior. Even the woman who runs the front desk at my hotel noticed. “Why would a house like Dior use such an inexperienced designer,” she asked me. She didn’t know the details, and she didn’t have to.
But back to Mr. Lagerfeld and the moody blues. Despite the luxe setting, he didn’t show any jewelry; the only ornamentation, aside from flashes of embroidery on the mostly dark clothes, were jeweled buttons. The silhouette was either dead straight, with ruffles spilling around the ankles (and other places, too), or there was a jutting peplum over a narrow skirt. The pity is the models didn’t remove their cropped jackets to show that the sleeveless wool dress was wonderfully modern looking and that its peplum, under which were discreet black feathers, enhanced the effect.
Other dresses, in papery black taffeta or a beaded slip of a dress, added to the fin-de-siècle melancholia. Or was it just something stirring in the vast Lagerfeld brain? Either way, it’s a legitimate mood in an overbright, bored world. It was just unclear how to read it against kitsch scenery.
Rising from his seat Wednesday at the Valentino show, the former co-owner Giancarlo Giammetti, who was next to the actress Anne Hathaway, had just the right summation: “Very Kate Middleton.” Understated princess clothes — youthful but womanly, with round necklines, natural waists and long sleeves — are suddenly the thing, thanks to the Duchess of Cambridge.
The designers, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli, even named the show’s closer, a gold lace gown, the “Little Princess.” Ahhh. It’s no wonder editors were whispering, surprised, “Hey, this is good.” It was dreamy: the best collection since the designers took over the house, with a nice mixture subtle daywear, evening suits with long skirts, and red-carpet looks in devore velvet and herringbone lace that won’t frighten the young socialites. The palette was beige and black with touches of red, pistachio and gold.
Riccardo Tisci has a decidedly more modern spirit. His 10-piece collection for Givenchy, in white, was youthful but also challenging in its use of transparency and embroidery. He created beautiful textures with knots, feathers and caviar beading, while letting the female body shine through the tulle underpinnings.
This has been a strong season for young talent. In his first couture show for his label, Giambattista Valli offered white flower embroidered shifts and mini coats. Long, flowing dresses in silk animal prints (with matching capes) had a movie-queen glamour.
Alexandre Vauthier’s all-red collection was dramatic, and displayed a fine sense of craft, but some looks verged on the commercial level of TV talent show.