I haven’t been to a runway show outside of Canada in well over a decade, when I was the fashion editor at the National Post and used to cover the international collections. Unsurprisingly, I was feeling a little giddy yesterday as I climbed the steps of Paris’ Grand Palais, personalized invite in hand, en route to Chanel’s fall haute couture presentation.
Of course my giddiness may have been nerves, considering the two cups of oil-thick coffee I’d had with breakfast, which was otherwise a very non-Parisian affair: an egg white omelet and unsweetened spelt flakes with soymilk (my stomach needed a break from all the cheese, cream and white flour and sugar I’d consumed the day before).
But my anticipation was definitely not caffeine-induced. There is nothing, I repeat, nothing, like witnessing a designer’s collection unfold in real-time, particularly one by Karl Lagerfeld.
Typically, Chanel holds two presentations on the same day during Paris Couture Week. Yesterday, at the 10 am show it was predominantly press and buyers in the stands, while at the one at noon, which I attended, most of the audience was made up of clients—the sort who can afford to pay five figures for a dress—and celebrities. And because this was a Chanel show, there were loads of them.
The first one I could pick out in the front row was Jared Leto—his dip-dyed hair and beard unrulier than ever. He wore a faded denim shirt over a baggy white tee with skinny gold-textured jeans from Chanel’s pre-fall collection which he’d tucked into cowboy boots. (I’ve interviewed Leto before and the guy is seriously tiny, like pocket-sized, hence his ability to squeeze into a pair of women’s designer jeans.)
Nearby, although I didn’t recognize her at first, was Kristen Stewart, debuting a new short wavy crop dyed an apricot-hue. Her hair stood out prominently against her all-white Chanel ensemble: a cropped tank and peek-a-boo lace Aladdin pants (when she stood up to leave, I—like many of those sitting across from her—caught a glimpse of her briefs underneath). As is often reported in the press, Stewart did indeed scowl through the proceedings, but I still love her nonetheless. Compared to a lot of people in the sun-filled room she wasn’t trying to look cool, she just is.
While the set referenced a photo of the late architect Le Corbusier’s mid-20th century Paris apartment, the clothes were very much of this era, even in spite of all the corseted waists and ornamental detailing being paraded down the catwalk.
At first glance, the stiff gowns reminded me of something the women in Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale might have worn, but after reading the show’s liner notes and zooming in on the shots I’d taken with my phone, it was clear these were anything but austere.
In fact, they were exuberantly and ingeniously decorated with everything from marabou feathers to concrete. Yes, concrete, perforated to look like mesh, or broken into tiny pieces, which were then embroidered onto garments alongside sequins and pearls.
There was even a wedding dress, a standard couture finale, but this one was more of a maternity dress, worn by the very pregnant New Zealand-born model Ashleigh Good.
The one celeb I wasn’t able to spot in the crowd was Kendall Jenner. It was only after a post-show Twitter check that I realized the brown-haired girl in the red tweed dress and des tongs très chic (which is what The Kaiser calls very chic flip-flops) on the runway was indeed Kim’s half-sister. Just like me, Kendall was celebrating her Couture Week debut!