The audience is instantly transported – literally – to a seaside setting, with the venue for Chanel’s spring/ summer 2019 collection having been transformed into a beach, complete with white sand, seagull sound effects and water hugging the shore. Models begin to stride determinedly onto the artificial ground, clad in updated, light and summery versions of the classic tweed suit. Stomping on the sand to post-electro-punk tunes, they show off oversized, soft tweed jackets paired with pedal pushers, long strings of pearls and fingerless biker gloves – another updated version of the signature Chanel suit look. Bodysuits and bandeau-neckline tops under the large, loose-fitting jackets are emblazoned with the diamanté-encrusted Chanel name, as well as on nineties-inspired chain belts and some of the jackets themselves. Coming straight out of the latter decade, some looks incorporate the previously mentioned belts with boxy white blouses and black leggings or cigarette trousers. Small, black shoulder bags and their corresponding versions in white across-body bags are in full evidence. Head-to-toe tweed, present, for instance, in culottes and matching jacket, gives way to rose-pink and puce skirts with a slit and slight underskirt. Jackets range from simply loose to boxy or slightly flared at the bottom, with sleeves tending almost towards the batwing. As the show progresses, suits become almost rainbow, even unicorn-hued, with bold dangling necklaces. Lips are rosy or poppy-red and eyes sexily rimmed with black.
Chunky chain necklaces with huge pendants attached give the outfits a distinctly urban feel. Quilted bags start to put in an appearance, and the iconic Chanel suit-pearls combination announces its presence in the form of huge hooped earrings with a pearl detail. White lace wide-legged trousers and powder-blue-laced tweed dresses creep in, nudging the textures towards a lighter feel. A seemingly Mexican-inspired poncho tweed dress is set off by solid, thick and brightly-coloured bangles. Softening the tweed effect are floppy beach straw hats, bright and cheerful straw caps and low-heeled, low-maintenance wedges with transparent heels. Bathing suits are early sixties high-waisted bikinis, with bold prints, gold charms and summery striped loose tweed jackets. Shirt dresses with colourful geometric prints take the collection in a slightly different direction, yet always with a base of jersey- and tweed-infused fabric. Short, jaunty beach dresses follow the style of the shirt dresses and the one-piece bathing suits, decorated with symmetrical prints as they are. The dominant colours are powder blue or aquamarine, rose, light coral or peach, mimosa or canary yellow, beige, light caramel and cream – very typical of this season. Ruffles, frills and clever layering – for example, an all-in-one blouse and bandeau-neckline type – are all de rigueur for Chanel this season. Beach dresses become long and floaty, with a flattering v-neck and Edwardian print.
The second half of the show brings with it the appearance of fringed tops, yet another innovation on the late eighties/ nineties Chanel suit with piping, reborn as beach/ leisure wear and accessorised with black zips and monochrome bodysuits enhanced with cerulean-and-white classic cardigans and denim culottes. Bleached denim, lace kaftans, Indian smocks and matching wide-leg trousers all take the audience closer to the notion of relaxed, throw-on beach chic, whilst the omnipresent tweed is, again, reimagined as tie-over midriff-baring covers and loose jackets, as well as long skirts with slits (surely intended for Atlantic weather, rather than Southern Mediterranean climates like ours!) The final nudge towards comfortable charm is achieved via black-sequined culotte jumpsuits and black-fringed sequinned jackets. The more classical Chanel beach girls shows off monogrammed black bodysuit and pedal pusher combinations, black shift or long sun dresses. Those seeking to lunch or dine at exclusive beach-resort eateries would, most likely, turn up in the kind of above-the-knee frilled black chiffon dresses shown towards the show’s close. The search for greater urbanity turns up with longer, sheer skirts ornamented with glittering black designs or cut-out shapes. Despite its apparent distance from eccentricity, however, the show is never devoid of a touch of whimsy, displayed in the fingerless leather gloves which were a constant feature of Lagerfeld’s own ensemble, as well as beach-ball clutch bags. This spring/ summer collection can probably be summed up in two neat phrases: ‘relaxed elegance’ and, to an even greater extent, ‘reinventing the classics’, something which the House of Chanel has always excelled at.
- Repurposing of tweed/ classic designs
- Sixties- and nineties-style bathing suits
- Geometric prints
- Nineties-style accessories, especially belts and necklaces
- Beach shoes as low wedges with transparent heels
- Colours such as mimosa, cerulean, poppy-red and light caramel
- Ruffles and fringes
- Bodysuits and pedal pushers
- Oversized jackets
- Lace in light colours
- Wide-legged trousers