Chanel Resort 2018

All hail Kaiser Karl for an adventure in classicism


A fantasy space expedition could only be rivalled with an equally epic show theme, and, as usual, Karl Lagerfeld didn't disappoint with Chanel's Ancient Greek-inspired Resort collection for 2017/2018.

Chanel's ready-to-wear AW17/18 show in March took us to the moon and back thanks to Lagerfeld's playful take on retro-futurism which culminated in a noisy rocket launch finale. Fashion-wise, we were treated to a veritable space odyssey: tweed skirt suits with funnel collars inspired by classic spacesuits; chiffon dresses printed with the image floating cosmonauts; white Courrèges-style kinky boots and lots of alien 'egg head' back combing.

By contrast, Resort 2017/2018 was modern classicism as seen through the columns of Ancient Greece – or as the Kaiser called it, 'La Modernité de l’Antiquité'. If anything links these two shows together, it is that they both riffed off the concept of timelessness and man's limitless imagination – which is perhaps an allegory for Lagerfeld himself: a seemingly unstoppable force at the age of 83; fashion's answer to Julius Caesar or a supernova perhaps.

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This cruise collection was undoubdetly commercial - as we all know, 'mid-season' collections often represent the lion share of revenue for a luxury brand – but the wonderful thing about Chanel is that the French maison really runs with a theme, which also makes it highly desirable and recognisable when it hits departments stores and boutiques. It’s a cachet that seems to work for them anyway.

The set at Paris' Grand Palais could have been borrowed from Universal Studios: great big mock Roman columns and ruins created a kitsch backdrop for the catwalk procession. Did we expect statuesque white suiting, Grecian dresses, laurel leaf crowns and strappy gladiator sandals? Hell yes we did! And that's exactly what we got only via 'Lagerfeld' narrative.

Colourful Chanel high-heeled sandals were fastened with crisscross straps all the way up the leg – the heel devised as a mini Ancient Greek column complete with swirly volutes. Instead of crowns, models' hair was kept in place with ornate gold or white hairbands; necklines were framed with softly draped silk; white tweed suits were given a Spartan feel thanks to frayed edging on miniskirts and rope ties on cinched jackets.

The 'Aphrodites' of the show wore romantic white dresses embroidered with gold laurel leaf patterns, as well as majestic long line/all-black ensembles – strong and dramatic silhouettes to contrast ultra-feminine details such as delicate pleated cap sleeves, intricate gold beading, shimmering gold fabrics and long ribbon ties (also in hair) that flowed from the nape of the neck to the waistline like dancing snakes.

The message was one of strength and fortitude but unlike Chanel's famous 'feminist rally' – see the spring/summer 2015 street catwalk which saw models brandishing placards with slogans such as 'Females First' and 'History is Her Story' - the Resort 2017/2018 collection, for all its Cleopatra-inspired leitmotifs and Ancient Greek allegory, was less focused on content than it was about substance and wearability. There was something for everyone here – whether you want to teeter around in Empire-making heels or not.

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