Karl Lagerfeld has adopted Goethe’s famous motto: “Build a better future by expanding on elements of the past.” At CHANEL he has changed nothing and everything, interpreting CHANEL in his own way with elegance and wit. He would have certainly met Mademoiselle’s approval, since her ideas also often created mini-revolutions before becoming the industry standard.
The above statement is on the Chanel website and it is eloquent and precise in describing Karl Lagerfeld’s deft hand in picking up where Coco Chanel left off. You can see elements of Coco Chanel in all the collections but nowhere has this been more apparent than in the Chanel’s Fall-Winter 2011/2012 Haute Couture collection, appropriately called Les Allures de Chanel.
In the sketch above, Karl lends his hand to a dress that Coco Chanel designed in 1931. The first thing I noticed was the peplum – many pieces in the Chanel’s Fall-Winter 2011/2012 Haute Couture collection highlighted this same very design feature.
Below you can see the 1920s influence of the flapper dress with low waist, straight silhouette and neckline with deep V detail.
In the next image you can see a Chanel print that may have inspired the fabrication of the dress on the left. The black fabric with pops of color seem reminiscent of the Chanel print.
Finally, there’s the boater hat – the hat that started it all. The boater hat is the first hat that Coco Chanel started designing. She would buy them in bulk from the store and then customize them. Her simple straw hats were a fresh counterpoint to the heavily feathered hats of the day that made Coco wonder how women could think underneath all of that excess. Karl Lagerfeld knows the significance of the boater hat so I’m guessing that is why every model in the show was wearing one. An homage to Coco would be nothing without a boater.
Unfortunately there are not a lot of images of original Chanel designs but I will continue to look for comparisons to see how Karl has taken the legacy of Coco Chanel and given it a current spin in future collections.
Image 1: Karl Lagerfeld sketch of a Coco Chanel dress designed in 1931, scan from Coco Chanel: The Legend and The Life by Justine Picardie, p. 193.
Image 2: Left: Chanel evening dress, 1923-24, scan from Chanel: The Couturiere at Work, by Amy de la Haye & Shelley Tobin, p. 37. Right: Style.com.
Image 3: Christian Bérard illustration featured in American Vogue, July 1937, scan from Coco Chanel: The Legend and The Life by Justine Picardie, p. 231. Right: Style.com.
Image 4: Chanel wearing one of the first boater hats she designed to the horse races in 1910, Chanel and Her World: Friends, Fashion and Fame, p. 60. Right: Style.com