Chanel declared 2017 the year of Gabrielle Chanel. It’s fitting, then, that its 2016/17 Métiers d’Art collection, presented at the newly renovated Ritz Paris last December, was filled with references to the house’s iconic founder. Indeed, from the pre-show evening welcome party the night before to the runway presentation itself, it felt as though one were walking in Gabrielle’s footsteps.
A bit of back story: the Ritz held great significance for Chanel; the palace hotel, founded by César Ritz in 1898, was like her second home and she took up residence there in the 1920s. Although she kept apartments at 29, rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré and most famously at 31 Rue Cambon, Chanel often slept at the Ritz for convenience’s sake.
The ultra-glamorous hotel became a hub for socialites and artists, a crowd that was known as café society. Karl Lagerfeld channelled the fabulous, well-heeled crowd that frequented the Ritz during Gabrielle’s heyday with his Paris Cosmopolite show. Lagerfeld enlisted as modern cosmopolitans a vibrant cast of celebrities, models and Chanel ambassadors, including Lily-Rose Depp, Cara Delevingne, Alice Dellal, Ellie Bamber, Georgia May Jagger and Pharrell Williams, among others (a virtual who’s who of “It girls” included). As guests finished tea and dessert, the cosmopolitans, adorned with veils and rose crowns on their heads, sashayed past the tables, straight through the dining rooms of the hotel, smiling and winking along the way.
Lagerfeld’s collection was inspired by “the evening dresses that women used to wear to dine at the Ritz” with waist-defining silhouettes and calf-length flared skirts. A palette of cream, white, navy blue, and black was embellished with hits of gold and red, intricate embroideries, and marabou and ostrich feathers, showcasing the talents of the petites mains who work in the Chanel Métiers d’Art ateliers. The classic Chanel tweed jacket was reworked with braided trims of pearls and tweed roses, while the suits were given a modern spin with straight-cut skirts and capri pants. French dancing duo Les Twins, planted among the guests and decked out in tailcoats, twirled and dipped the models as they glided along the café runway in a whirlwind of tulle and feathers. All in all, this whimsical fashion fantasy provided a welcome injection of joyful merriment, and just at the right time.