Karl Lagerfeld has delved into a new realm: that of the East. Everyone is talking about Dubai – the ultramodern city currently on the fast track to development. It was within this futuristic metropolis that Lagerfeld chose to stage his Cruise collection. The show was held in a gigantic golden rectangular edifice covered in a lattice, which at first glance resembled traditional Islamic patterning. However, as guests neared the structure they could see that it was made up of a multitude of Chanel's interlocking double C's.
"This is my idea of a romantic, modern Orient, a new One Thousand and One Nights," said Lagerfeld, "Dubai is the world of tomorrow." The excitement of the collection was found in its many golden hues, tiaras, bolero jackets with voluminous sleeves embroidered with micro-sequins and baggy pants in gold Lurex silk. Chanel's contemporary princesses walked the rows of Bedouin-style seat arrangements where guests dined on dates and champagne as they haughtily walked past with their curly manes done up "à la Marisa Berenson," as Lagerfeld explained.
The ensembles were androgynous and feminine and much resembled in a modern way the Orientalism of French painters Delacroix and Ingres. There were tunics hemmed with Lesage embroidery in powered sequins; pleated blouses with embellished beads; a tailcoat in tweed coupled with a bronze sequined dress and kaftan tunics in black and white geometric forms to recall the traditional patterns typical of Oriental art. These electric ensembles, which were adorned with Chanel's exquisite watches and high jewellery, ultimately depicted a desire to break free of boundaries – uphold a bit of tradition and then move forward. And set in the modern magnificence of Dubai, this is what this collection said.
Also added was Lagerfeld's typical bout of humour. This time it was found on quilted petroleum can bags to reveal the designer's witty play on contemporary Gulf culture. Intriguing as they were, some in the audience thought the bags might have gone too far in a stereotypical projection of Gulf history. Other puns were seen in jewelled sandals with bright soles evoking traditional Oriental slippers – all details of this magnificent affair that amazed the 1,000 guests in attendance, including Chanel ambassadors Vanessa Paradis, Tilda Swinton, Anna Mouglalis, Alice Dellal and Zhou Xun.
In what is quickly becoming a Chanel regular appearance, for the grand finale, Hudson Kroenig, the toddler of Lagerfeld's main muse Brad Kroenig, made a guest appearance on the catwalk. There was also a private concert given by singer Janelle Monae to round off the show. At the end, each guest got back into the wooden abras that had brought them to the Chanel Island. They left behind Lagerfeld's magical world and journeyed back into the megalopolis of Dubai's bright lights and shiny skyscrapers.
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