October 13th, 2011
By Elisabeth Quin
in show-insider. (Last updated: October 14th, 2012)

CHANEL MY UNDERWATER LIFE
BY ELISABETH QUIN

Jules Verne? Wes Anderson? Georges Méliès? Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea? This stunning recreation of the ocean floor, this immaculate white landscape of seaweed, stingrays, sharks and shells, daring the dream with candor and an optimistic, rather than desolate, idea of fashion.

So, captivated by an extravagant dream, enthralled, and traveling even before the show commenced, spectators awaited the various versions of the underwater theme throughout the collection.

It was a masterpiece: deceptively simple but never dull. Mermaids in slinky sheath dresses were not on the program. Instead, there were more youthful and light silhouettes than ever. Lots of long, tapering limbs, knee-revealing dresses and skirts, luxurious and loose knitwear, wonderful white sweaters worn over full skirts, the very image of elegance without pretension. We loved the mini-mini shorts in laminated denim worn under unstructured jackets, the little top embroidered like a bed of sea anemones, jackets sensually cut along the small of the back, the dress embroidered with bronze-colored scales. The collection seems to capture the shimmering light of the sun on the waves.

The tweed is iridescent with Lurex and mother-of-pearl applications chiseled onto suits. Extensive work on the materials reinforces the modernity and the energy of the profiles: rhodoid, neoprene and plastic accentuate the feeling of lightness. A silicon lace biker jacket designed by Sophie Halette is complimented by sinewy black plastic piping for the ultimate refined look. It is as though two hands had dived into the sea foam and brought back a jacket.

Subtle humour permeates the collection. The dress with embroidered shoulders bears a trompe-l’oeil of lacy seaweed below the waistline. Karl Lagerfeld has been having more fun than ever!

Heels shaped like coral branches or beaded shells, earrings and rings in the shape of sea urchins, shell-shaped clutch bags, rectangular quilted bags enchained like certain packages recovered by the sea customs… all enraptured the audience. The haunting black and white or silver-colored ankle boots gave movement and a subtle touch of the Swinging Sixties in London to the shapes.
The evening was sumptuous and youthful, with lengths remaining above the ankle, diaphanous volumes, lace, gemstones, sparkling embroidery, a spirit in-keeping with both the celestial and the aquatic.

Pearl, the iconic motif of the House of Chanel, was in its element! Assembled in delicate belts on some short dresses, it transformed into a sort of skin embroidery to create almost an almost surreal alignment down the spine.
Lightness, inventiveness and refinement for an intensely invigorating collection that ends with a Botticelli-style appearance of the singer Florence Welch, emerging from a giant shell to sing, accompanied by a harp player.

While her striking voice filled the Grand Palais, Paul Valéry’s words in ‘The Graveyard by the Sea’ came to mind:
“A freshness, exhalation of the sea,
Restores my soul . . . Salt-breathing potency!
Let's run at the waves and be hurled back to living!”

This collection was exactly that, living!


Photo © Olivier Saillant