Chanel Fall 2011 Paris Couture Show

Chanel Couture Fall 2011

Chanel Couture Fall 2011 Karmen Pedaru

Modelled by Karmen Pedaru

Mixed receptions to the Paris Couture shows seemed to be the thing this week. As with Dior the fashion press is divided on Chanel’s Fall 2011 show. Unlike Dior no change at the top still the singular Karl Lagerfeld at the helm. And still those who think he carries the Coco flame. But others who think he has gone off track.

This show was a life of Coco if a Tarantino time-shifted one.

One of the criticisms of the show was that he made these ‘already taller-than-the-average-woman’ models look small – and which I share. This must have been purposeful I guess – Lagerfeld is too much the artist to have so oddly tailored – but then for what purpose?

Most of the outfits were suits and very stylish but they also looked very warm – and what sort of a primary adjective is that for a Chanel show?!

The Chanel work ethic was intact – it was as ever an extensive collection – the House of Chanel clearly toiled long and hard. I loved the materials and the design prints. But not enough to overcome my reservations about the styling and structure of the outfits at least in the first half of the show.

Chanel Couture Fall 2011 Liu Wen

Modelled by Liu Wen

As the show progressed these reservations fell away – the dresses and the longer skirted suits worked unreservedly.

The set was a wow – Place Vendome as rendered by Fritz Lang – but this did not extend enough to the clothes – usually for Chanel shows words fail me – there are not superlatives enough etc – here I was not lost for words.

Merely occasionally very impressed.

Coco – the Musical returns

Coco Chanel

Coco, the 1969 Coco Chanel inspired Broadway Musical, is currently being revived by the Lilian Baylis Studio through to June 12 at Sadler’s Wells, London.

Coco Katherine Hepburn

The original had excellent credentials – written by My Fair Lady author Alan Jay Lerner, with music by Andre Previn and stage-sets by Cecil Beaton – yet it failed. Ostensibly it was to celebrate the (early) life of Coco Chanel but actually focused on a very narrow late period of it (1953/4, when she was out of love with the critics and financially near bankrupt) much to Coco Chanel’s chagrin. Her part was played by Katherine Hepburn. She gave a zesty performance and there were a number of promising titles like ‘A Woman Is How She Loves’ and ‘The Money Rings Out Like Freedom’ – but there were no show-stoppers, nothing out of the musical ordinary.

Musicals about fashion designers provide an opportunity to see the life’s arc of their creations and ‘Coco’ with its finale presents her works from 1919 to 1959 as a fashion show. I wonder how the Lilian Baylis Studio will catwalk her collection.

But musicals tend to be conservatively composed and Coco was no exception.

Alain Chamfort

Last year French singer and composer Alain Chamfort released an album of sixteen songs dedicated to the life of another French Fashion Designer Yves Saint Laurent called ‘Un Vie Saint Laurent’. It clearly lent itself to a musical and this idea has been taken up.

Fashion designers are a ripe subject for musicals – with their lives often as creative and eventful as their collections. The visual representation should not be taxing – a short step from Couturier to Costumer.

It is more whether the music can do them justice.

British Fashion Designers Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood would be fitting subjects for musicals, but the musical accompaniment would need to be an angular punky departure from the usual neutral ersatz string arrangements.

Perhaps Lily Allen for Westwood? Scott Walker for McQueen?!