A complex of supercomputers made up the Chanel Data Center, which was situated in the middle of Grand Palais (a constant venue for the brand’s shows). It came complete with control panels, fibre-optic cables, node board racks and a cooling system – a testament to how Chanel’s colossal and elaborate sets continue to be the highlight of Paris Fashion Week. In the past, the mise en scène of the French maison’s ready-to-wear shows has included a supermarket (complete with Chanel-branded groceries), an airport, a giant carousel, ice caps and a wind farm. These presentations gave us opportunities to have conversations about disposable fashion, jetset lifestyles, having fun, environmental concerns and energy sustainability – and that is truly what makes fashion great: when it is both fun and smart.
“Even if you don't like the idea, technology rules the world because it changed the world and it made many things easier,” said creative director Karl Lagerfeld. We live in a time when sci-fi thrillers rule primetime television, goodwill is dependent on the posting of statuses on Twitter, and Fashion Week is experienced on Instagram. While the web has its drawbacks, it is what democratises fashion and makes that world almost, dare we say it, relatable. Everyone now gets to see everything first-hand, up-close and personal – as long as they have an Internet connection.
Lagerfeld proved he still had his mojo on the zeitgeist and more in tune than ever with a younger generation of audiences. His current muse, after all, is celeb offspring Lily-Rose Depp. Plus, the show entrance was definitely something that caught the tech-driven millennials’ attention. Two “cyborg” models (we immediately thought of electronic music duo Daft Punk) dressed in Chanel tweed walked down the Data Centre together, splitting midway in opposite directions as though scanning the area. Lagerfeld’s explanation: “That is my idea of putting the most iconic jacket in the show – on a creature from an unknown future… That means Chanel is timeless and, as the French say, immortal.”
In keeping with the digital theme, there were plenty of Instagram-worthy pieces in the collection. Talk about an information overload: there were laser-cut jackets with the word “Chanel” in digital lettering; a classic flap bag made of plastic intertwined with computer cables; Matrix-inspired visor sunglasses; LED-wire clutches that functioned like a ticker; necklaces that resembled IT-conference passes; resin bags imprinted with circuit board patterns; and the immediately recognisable Boy bag… decked out with LED boards.
The challenge of fashion today, then, is to remain genuine despite the increasingly automated Orwellian environment. “It’s not technology in a cold way, it’s intimate technology,” said Lagerfeld, who mixed icons and innovative fabrics with silhouettes and material associated with lingerie. This juxtaposition of human versus artificial was a reflection of Chanel’s integrity and the brand’s ability to be highly responsive towards changes even in its experimentations. In fact, it was these qualities that propelled Gabrielle Coco Chanel forward while her contemporaries and rivals were forced to close shop.
Other details that showed how deftly the house has successfully managed this balancing act: the cap worn sideways, which added a dose of fun; silky neon lab coat edged with frills slashed to reveal pleated chiffon layer beneath; a heavy tweed jacket simply worn over a lace blouse, lace shorts and lace tights. Another version of this was made with iridescent material, making it look like it was composed of individual solar panels. One pantsuit was tailored to the body’s curves, and paired with an overcoat trimmed with cables.