by Alex R. Travers
The fashion world has a champion, Karl Lagerfeld. Besides Fendi and his namesake label, Lagerfeld designs two haute couture and two ready-to-wear shows for Chanel each year, the last two, Fall 2014 and Spring 2014 haute couture, being perfect examples of his forward thinking. To add to this list of accomplishments are his Cruise and Merits d’Arts shows, multi million–dollar outings that feel like a bi-annual Chanel world tour. This season’s stop was Dubai, where the brand’s presence isn’t exactly new but not quite yet established. (Chanel operates three boutiques in the United Arab Emirates— two in Dubai and one in Abu Dhabi—and one at Level Shoe District, which is located inside the sprawling Dubai Mall. There are plans to open a fourth boutique at the Dubai International Airport.)
When I looked at images of the show (I did not attend), located on an artificial island a few hundred meters off the coast of Jumeirah Beach Park, guests were admiring Karl’s creations, some sitting cross-legged on cushy pillows placed directly on the runway. Several small lanterns hung from the high ceiling. Palm trees towered, pointing to the sky like the many multi-story structures in view. Chanel’s auditorium—sand colored and covered with lattice-like multiples of the double-C logo—was most likely the first building to pop-up on this island, operating within the confines of an otherwise isolated piece of land. If you’ve ever wondered about the existence of an alternative reality, here was proof.
This probably won’t be the best of the resort spectacles this year, but it sure looked like the most fun. Watching a Chanel show is a delight, if a somewhat inexplicable one. The silhouettes were quite good, as were the clothes. Loose tunic tops were embellished with sequins. Djellabas were updated with flowing layers of light chiffon (Grace Mahary’s midnight blue version was a favorite). Many were hand-cut, hand sewn. And it seemed, at least most of the time, that the garments heeded Islamic law where outfits must cover much of the skin and should be loose enough not to define the body.
Yet most these clothes should still have worldwide appeal, even the age-old djellabas masterly enlivened by Lagerfeld and the creative team. So should the accessories—a lot of women are already buzzing about that quilted oil-jug handbag. I’m not certain there is anyone as clever as Karl when it comes to statement accessories…or statements for that matter.