The secret life of the Chanel studios
It happened in an haute couture atelier sort of setting, and Karl Lagerfeld’s fall-winter 2016-2017 collection was a true tribute to Chanel. It was a timelessly elegant collection that bought together the house’s rich couture heritage and put Chanel‘s seamstresses front and centre on-set, at Paris’ Grand Palais. The message of this minutious recreation of Chanel’s famous rue Cambon ateliers was clear — haute couture was timeless. Without the virtuosity of its petites mains working in the secrecy of the ateliers, Haute Couture wouldn’t have its unique and incomparable brilliance. At Chanel their expertise is deployed in two
tailleur ateliers and two flou ateliers [tailoring and dressmaking]. Karl Lagerfeld wished to pay them tribute by dedicating to them the Autumn-Winter 2016/17 Chanel Haute Couture collection presented on 5th July. So, beneath the glass roof of the Grand Palais, the ateliers on the rue Cambon have been recreated down to the smallest detail. Tables, sewing machines, mirrors, pins, fabrics, multi-coloured threads, toiles and mannequins: the inner world of seamstresses is put under the spotlight and animated before the audience by the premières of the ateliers, followed by their seconds and the 78 seamstresses from the House of Chanel which counts more than 120. “I thought that was a modern idea to make them participate. They should be shown too,” Karl commented.
This season the cut is defined by a sleek, pure silhouette. It forms the thread running through a structured and graphic collection. Bevelled or angular cut shoulders, held with stitches create a “standing up” effect, framing a flat profile without any padding. The 3/4 length sleeves answer the 7/8 turn-up hems of the culottes and wide-cut trousers worn over draped leather thigh boots. The tweed jackets highlight the waist with protruding pockets on the hips. Coat dresses and jacket dresses in tweed form games of trompe-l’oeil. An ethereal hairstyle tied back with a grosgrain headband further enhances and blurs these strict and geometric shapes.
The same refinement is reflected in the treatment of colour. Autumnal shades – browns, marron glacé, oranges, beige and greys – are nuanced and enriched with a palette of pinks, blacks and whites as block colours or woven in duos.
The exacting perfection of Haute Couture is reflected in the minute details sometimes barely visible. Thus linings of protruding pockets are reworked, stitching is spun with fringed spirals and braids are plaited with tulle and tweed. The embroidery of stones, matt sequins, beads and feathers are combined and multiplied endlessly to create enchanting flowers and compose neck straps.