Sunday, August 31, 2014

Saddle up with Chanel

I recently received an envelope full of newspaper and magazine clippings from my Aunt Mary Ellen in New Orleans. We fondly call these "Hank mail" after her father who was famous for sending correspondence filled with odds and ends to recipients around the world. Once you were on Hank's mailing list and he knew your interests, you received missives from him for life.

In ME's envelope was the above clipping, which gave me a laugh. Even for those of us who worship at the altar of fashion, what we consider good taste is often pushed beyond the limit. The above bag was shown at Chanel's once-a-year Metiers d'Art (also known as Pre-Fall 2014) which took place in Dallas last December. Karl Lagerfeld chose a Texas theme to honor Dallas and Neiman Marcus, the first place to enthusiastically accept Coco Chanel's comeback designs in 1957.

For context, it's good to know a little history here. In 1939 Chanel closed her salon when France declared war on Germany. Following the war, Chanel observed Dior's success with the "New Look" and felt the tiny waists and full skirts were not modern at all. She reopened her salon, but her designs were not a critical success. She soon developed the Chanel suit that we know of today: tweed fabric, braid trim, short boxy jacket and narrow skirt. America, especially the Dallas-based Neiman Marcus, accepted her modern suit with great enthusiasm. For Pre-Fall 2014, Lagerfeld went a little Texas-happy applying western motifs to everything.

ME and I chatted about this the other day and she had more to add: "It's not Chanel anymore. I'm old school. I'm glad he's kept Chanel going but I wish she was here. I'd love to hear what she would say. The bag looks like Texas and not Chanel.  I don't think you'll see it on the Rue St. Honore or Boulevard St. Germain.  A touch pricey I think, but maybe a horse comes with it. Quel disappointment."

I stopped by the San Francisco Chanel boutique last week to see the handbag in person. There were about five or six variations of the "saddle" bag with lots of fringe and trim, beaded jewelry items with a Native American theme and a red, white and blue silk scarf with a large "Dallas" printed on it. The items didn't feel San Francisco at all, but the shoppers are tourists from other places in the world, where a western theme is probably considered exotic. But for locals, the Texas style is too close to home to take seriously.

For the Texas show, he directed a 24-minute video about this time in Chanel's life. Called The Return, it is great glamorous fun to watch. Lagerfeld has a million ideas and I'm hoping the next collection gives me the ol' Chanel coup de coeur.

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