In matters of style, you hear the words ‘classic’ and ‘timeless’ a lot. An awful lot in fact. But if there’s one brand that they truly apply to, it’s Chanel, which is arguably the ultimate name in fashion.
Chanel has been in business, astonishingly, since 1909. Yet despite its incredible pedigree, it has never been content to rest on its laurels. And I don’t think it ever will.
I won’t do my usual thing and try to fill you in on the designer’s background and history, as a whole library’s worth has already been written. If you’d like to do some reading yourself, I’d recommend a fascinating biography about its founder called Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life, by Justine Picardie.
There’s also a beautifully illustrated book which focuses on just one legendary Chanel piece: T he Little Black Jacket – Chanel’s Classic Revisited, cowritten by chief designer Karl Lagerfeld.
But while we’ll leave the bulk of the history to other writers, we can’t do this without stating bluntly that Coco Chanel genuinely – and single-handedly – revolutionised women’s fashion.
Single-handedly, she made tanned skin fashionable. Single-handedly, she freed women from the constricting tyranny of corsets and stays. Single-handedly, she made fashion casual and enjoyable. Single-handedly – and for better or for worse, perhaps – she changed the perceived ideal of a womanly shape away from the hourglass figure.
Chanel is the name behind a highly distinctive and much-desired look – the Chanel suit – and one of the most popular range of bags and purses ever, under the collective title of the Chanel baguette.
Chanel no. 5 is one of the best-selling fragrances of all time; the one that Marilyn Monroe said was the only thing she wore in bed. (Wow!) And every graphic designer I know will agree that even though it was launched as long ago as 1924, the Chanel typeonly logo is still ultracool. All in all, it’s quite a legendary list of achievements!
The aforementioned Karl Lagerfeld has been at the helm since 1983. Known as a fairly eccentric character, he’s no stranger to controversy. For instance, he has clashed with the PETA antianimal fur activists several times, even though he rarely uses fur in his work and is virtually vegetarian himself; he just thinks it’s unfair for the people who make a living from it.
But aside from all the hype and colour, the fact remains that he is a simply brilliant designer. He knows when to plunder the massive Chanel portfolio of past triumphs when to serve them up straight, when and where to tweak them a little, and when to strike out with something new.
And that is exactly what he did with Chanel’s Spring 2017 ready-to -wear collection. It included everything from tweeds twinkling with crystal and plastic and vibrant silk prints to pretty frothy chiffon sundresses, medallion necklaces, and a whole palette of summery colors. We’re in an era when everything can happen, all at the same time. And that’s massege came across in the newest collection.
Take a look at the collection yourself here.