After last season’s supermarket, Karl Lagerfeld took streetwear more literally for Spring/Summer 2015 at Chanel. Gone were the ragga girls and post-gym mums, and in came a troupe of more obviously on-brand bourgeois types, styled as the women you’d find in a street – Boulevard Chanel, to be exact – over the course of a day.
There were early bird commuters first, a whole band of them, in double breasted boucle trousers suits – the wide legs cropped modishly at ankle height – in a palette that ranged from berry shades through to forest and grassy greens, and incorporated a Square Mile-esque Prince of Wales check at one point too.
Then came the more free and easy creative types, slouching into work at about ten – they combined their boucle with a sort of psychedelic print that worked as double-faced lapels on outerwear, on shift dresses and even as knee high boots.
The fashion girls appeared in utilitarian khakis made from suede and raw-edged linen weaves, cut mannishly in shirtdresses, slacks and biker jackets. Then the tourists and the shoppers, more teenage in puff-sleeved dresses, floral applique and jewel-like beading on casual separates that were layered nonchalantly.
Lagerfeld whisked us through more pinstripes (on shorts and casual knits), some sportswear (though not as ‘sporty’ as last season), luxe knitwear, mirror-tiled and eveningwear in chiffon printed with what looked like that the nuts and bolts from Parisian arrondissement signs, and he ended with a women’s lib rally, with models holding megaphones and banners.
‘History is her story’ read one sign, ‘Feministe mais feminine’, said another, while one model held a Simone de Beauvoir quote on a placard. Lagerfeld’s point with this show was to send home the message that Chanel caters to every type of woman (who can afford to pay for it, of course) – that the breadth of this label’s archive and aesthetic fits all ages and all demographics. And that the imaginative ability of its creative director to manipulate the codes and the signifiers here is the way to speak to customers around the globe.
But with the finale, he acknowledged something else: the conversation in fashion right about how to dress for and address the political mood. What began as social observation has become commercial turf. Lagerfeld’s protest was a send-up perhaps, not of the cause but of those in the industry who profess adherence to it in order to sell a politically correct handbag, say, or a blazer for ‘the working woman’.
Because Chanel has the last laugh in this instance: its founder was fashion’s greatest feminist. It’s because of her that you’re wearing T-shirts and trousers and flat shoes; you have her to thank for the demise of the corset. Coco was fashion’s everywoman, and now her label proclaims it can dress them all too.