BY ELISABETH QUIN
Fountains of youth for Chanel at the Chateau de Versailles
Chanel has set the tone for its Cruise 2012/13 collection by selecting the Bosquet des Trois Fontaines at the Château de Versailles as the setting for its runway. Adorned with shells, rock formations and fountains, the grove was designed in 1677 by France's Sun King, Louis XIV (a charismatic monarch, lover of Versailles, friend to the arts and a man of many talents – like a certain Karl?), and was constructed by his gardener André Le Nôtre. The result is a youthful, playful, elegant and whimsical collection, modern yet Baroque at the same time.
The gardens were filled with the winds of a grunge fantasy on Monday evening, set to the sounds of harpsichord music and electro Michael Jackson remixes.
Inspired by the rebellious spirit of La Fronde, the collection boasted bob-styled wigs in an array of pastels or in jet black, chopped high at the back of the head (bringing the infamous guillotine to mind) and worn over long ponytails tied with ribbons. Even more radical was the dramatic makeup of these young party-girl marchionesses wandering through boxwood mazes and sighing gardens in a pale Twilight-inspired palette with tiny interlocking CC beauty marks under their eyes.
However, the truly revolutionary look of this Cruise collection made its triumphant entrance as the first models appeared: edgy "luxury street wear" platform sneakers and lace ruffled crinoline split skirts, an artistic blend of classicism and street style. Knee-length pedal pushers that button snugly below the knee showcased movement, youthfulness and lightweight style. Paired with gold platform sneakers, these soft denim breeches are one of Karl Lagerfeld's fetish items. Gold-embroidered sleeveless denim jackets with military details created an opulent, offbeat look while white tweed jackets braided with patriotic colors of scarlet pink, blue and white were an ultra-trendy nod to the country's revolutionary heritage.
Our favorite looks included palazzo pants paired with three-quarter sleeve lace-adorned jackets, a white blouse with gigot sleeves peeping out from underneath a tailored jacket, mini-skirts swishing with every step, gracefully noble waistcoats, and an edgy rock-inspired black jacket embroidered with sequins and zipped up over a short marquisette skirt. The pleated gold skirt paired with a white sweatshirt fitted at the waist was simply regal, while colored acetate inlays and applications on virgin-white dresses summarized Chanel's take on how to successfully blend eighteenth-century style with twenty-first-century materials.
Upon leaving the Bosquet des Trois Fontaines at dusk after this aristo-rock ball infused with youth, tenderness and frivolity (the ingredients for enduring nostalgia), we were reminded of the words of Jean de La Bruyère: "The most delicate, the most sensible of all pleasures, consists in promoting the pleasure of others." Chanel, indeed.