Walk Like an Egyp­tian

WWD Digital Daily - - Front Page - — Brid­get Fo­ley

With the Met’s Tem­ple of Den­dur as a dra­matic back­drop — and his mind on an­tiq­uity — Karl Lager­feld pa­raded a bounty of beau­ti­ful, Egypt-in­spired clothes for his lat­est Métiers d’Art col­lec­tion for Chanel. Lean sil­hou­ettes, lav­ish em­bel­lish­ments and gold ruled, in­clud­ing for Phar­rell Wil­liams, at right.

“This is not El­iz­a­beth Tay­lor, any­way,” Karl Lager­feld de­clared. En­camped in a suite at the Mercer Ho­tel — which the Chanel en­tourage took over in full in prepa­ra­tion for the house’s Métiers d’Art show on Tues­day night — Lager­feld quickly dis­pelled any pre­con­cep­tion of a luxe cheese fest of over­done makeup and tricked-out head­dresses in­spired by La

Liz’s (al­beit de­light­ful) turn as Cleopa­tra.

Lager­feld made the dis­claimer be­fore pre­sent­ing his col­lec­tion in the Tem­ple of Den­dur, the grand, solemn ar­ti­fact of an­cient Egypt un­der Ro­man rule, com­mis­sioned after Cae­sar Au­gus­tus ousted the real Cleopa­tra, and en­sconced since the Six­ties in the Metropoli­tan Mu­seum of Art, a gift to the U.S. from Egypt. When it comes to his itin­er­ant show lo­ca­tions, Lager­feld typ­i­cally draws am­ply from their sar­to­rial tra­di­tions. Pil­fer­ing el­e­ments from leder­ho­sen to cow­boy boots, he Chanel-ifies them with equal parts re­spect and au­dac­ity. At a time when fear of reprisal over cul­tural ap­pro­pri­a­tion has si­phoned ma­te­rial from many a de­signer’s in­spi­ra­tion well, Lager­feld re­mains fear­less. If some­thing in­spires him, he goes for it, here cel­e­brat­ing the grace­ful power of Egyp­tian iconog­ra­phy in a wealth of beau­ti­ful clothes.

As he imag­ines it, any­way. For all Lager­feld’s run­way wan­der­lust, in truth he has one source of in­spi­ra­tion, his own noggin. “This was not look­ing at books and do­ing it,” he of­fered. “It was the mood, the feel­ing, what I re­mem­ber and things like that.

“There’s a time­less­ness to it,” he said of the al­lure of an­cient Egyp­tian im­agery, not­ing that the idea for the col­lec­tion crys­tal­lized be­fore the lo­ca­tion was se­cured. “I al­ways was in­ter­ested in the old Egypt, from 3,000 years be­fore Je­sus Christ. And then I said it would be great to show it in the Met, but I never thought it was pos­si­ble. And then it was pos­si­ble.”

But then, if “im­pos­si­ble” ex­ists within the world of Chanel, we’ve yet to see it. Here, the house booked the Met for the show (which ne­ces­si­tated clos­ing pub­lic ac­cess to the Tem­ple of Den­dur for many days prior) and a nearby ex­panse of Cen­tral Park for the party. At the mu­seum, Lager­feld re­moved the util­i­tar­ian mem­ber­ship desks and in­stalled huge urns of flow­ers, but oth­er­wise left the Grand Hall and hal­lowed Tem­ple area as is, save

for the in­stal­la­tion of show seat­ing in the lat­ter. Guests in­cluded a glitzy celebrity ros­ter — Ju­lianne Moore, Mar­got Rob­bie, Pené­lope Cruz, Lily-Rose Depp and Sofia Cop­pola. One celebrity wasn’t seated: Phar­rell Wil­liams walked the show, a vi­sion all in gold, long sweater atop leather pants.

The gold wasn’t just for Phar­rell. Rather, it proved an over­ar­ch­ing theme and a per­fect point of in­ter­sec­tion be­tween Lager­feld’s two lo­ca­tions, the Tem­ple and the city in which it now re­sides. An­cient Egyp­tians revered the pre­cious metal lit­er­ally; fi­nance-driven NYC does so fig­u­ra­tively. Never mind that Lager­feld’s show hap­pened on an un­happy day for Wall Street; you’d never know it from the run­way or from the contin­gent of dressed-to-the-Chanel-nines clients who turned out. Surely they loved the gold that ra­di­ated from start to fin­ish, most of­ten el­e­gantly ren­dered. Lager­feld fa­vored a long, lean sil­hou­ette, build­ing many looks on an in­ge­nious un­der­pin­ning — a floor­length white, gauzy dress. He opened with suits — sur­prise! — in end­less op­tions. They came short, long, curvy and fab­u­lously over­sized, their tweeds ren­dered in mul­ti­ple shades of metal­lic gold, or edged in golden leather.

Lager­feld drew on the pre­ci­sion of Egyp­tian art for clothes cut with clean, spare lines, with nary a trace of su­per­flu­ous flou, even at night. There were plenty of demon­stra­tive, rounded we­sekh col­lars, high-in­ten­sity tex­ture — those Bar­rie knits, amaz­ing! — and em­bel­lish­ment. It came lav­ish, in elab­o­rate mo­saics (down to the heels on the gold boots); in­tri­cate em­broi­deries, some with a tinge of Art Deco, and a re­cur­rent scarab mo­tif, and play­ful, in a feisty logo print that com­bined el­e­ments of then and now. “Hiero-graf­fiti,” quipped Lager­feld sound­ing board Amanda Har­lech dur­ing the pre­view.

If that treat­ment hinted to­ward street, so, too, did a few denim looks and a leather biker jacket, the for­mer dec­o­rated with tonal denim ap­pliques that looked like non-spe­cific an­cient sym­bols and the lat­ter, stamped to imi­tate croc, Ex­hibit A of the brand’s new no-more-ex­otics pol­icy. All to­gether, the event was ex­hil­a­rat­ing and the clothes, ( give or take the oc­ca­sional too-flashy-sweater-and-om­bréd-leather­jeans combo), as chic as it gets.

Still, an­cient homage has its lim­its, and so does fancy. After the show, guests strolled or were bused a mere 10 blocks south for the post­show party in the park. Well, in a heated tent Chanel pitched in the park, this be­ing No­vem­ber, and the tem­per­a­ture, chilly. Once there, the rev­el­ers set­tled into booths to feast on fare from that most mod­ern and pro­le­tar­ian of Gotham con­ve­niences — food trucks.

PHO­TO­GRAPH BY STÉPHANE FEUGÈRE

Chanel Métiersd’Art 2019

Chanel Métiersd’Art 2019

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