4 January 2016

A Visual Alphabet of Chanel

The French fashion house is a secret potion, epitomising luxury through the not-so-secret recipe of one part trend-driven fashion and one part timeless classicism. The Kaiser, Mr. Lagerfeld is hovering over the bubbling cauldron with his quilted ladle; serving Chanel concoctions to his waiting and already captivated audiences. Following my Visual Alphabet of Gucci S/S16, I present a pictorial A-Z of all things Chanel.

A is for adversity
Supporter or sympathiser? Chanel's infamous Nazi dealing are riddled with unanswered questions and hazy detailing. Her affair with the German officer Baron Hans Guenther von Dincklage allowed her to become closely acquainted with the Nazi upper echelons. She was sent to Madrid in 1943 to try and strike a truce with former lover Winston Churchill and the British officers stationed there. At the war's end Chanel fled to Switzerland and was spared from being tried as a collaborator, apparently due to the intervention of Churchill himself.

B is for ballerina flats
Classic and comfy. Chanel ballerina flats have been reinvented through every colour-way imaginable and varying seasonal patterns. They exude an effortless style that is quintessentially French and are strongly favoured among fashion's elite. Personal favourite Chanel ballerina flat moment: Kiera Knightley wearing a peach pair on her own wedding day.

C is for camellia
It's appeared embossed into leather, printed on chiffon scarves, adorned with diamonds for ornate hair clasps and earrings, embroidered into skirts, transformed into perfectly placed brooches and decorates every shopping bag when you make a purchase in a Chanel boutique. Not only that, but the camellia flower's powers are harnessed in Chanel's skincare creams too. Talk about consistent branding. 

D is for diamonds
1932 marked the formation of Gabrielle Chanel's first and only collection of fine jewellery. Her five signature motifs - the star, the sun, the bow, the fringe and the feather were cast in diamond and still resonate in the collections and designs of the house today.

E is for espadrilles
The fashion world went mad for Chanel Espadrilles a few seasons ago when they rose to power and were spotted on the feet of most of the front-row regulars. I managed to bag a pair myself and they seem to make even rainy Edinburgh seem somewhat more tropical.

F is for feminism
Is a fashion show an appropriate place for a feminist protest? Is it a complete and utter contradiction? The SS15 show rode on soaring feminist wave, upsetting and inspiring in near-equal proportions. Faux-politicised slogans like "Féministe mais Feminine" and "Votez Coco" were scrawled across bags and signs while the chant being led over the megaphone was a call-and-response that asked, “What do we want?” The answer: “Tweed!” There are countless ways in which such a powerful fashion house could approach an issue that is so particularly prominent in fashion. Maybe it's best that they made a mockery of it, they'd surely still upset people if they'd taken it seriously.

G is for gisele
She's walked in the shows for years, featured in several advertising campaigns and stands the face of Chanel No. 5 and the Les Beiges make-up collection. Gisele is a favourite of the French house and her photographic features and athletic physique has created an aspirational image of the Chanel woman.

H is for hudson kroenig
In 2010, the then two year old made his Chanel catwalk debut; now seven years old, Hudson regularly walks for Chanel, often hand-in-hand with Cara Delevingne in the finale. With Karl Lagerfeld as his godfather, he dines with the likes of Rihanna and Anna Wintour gets Katy Perry or Gisele as a babysitter - literally.

I is for ingenious sets
Supermarkets, airports, art shows, crumbling theatres, casinos, underwater, barnyards, brasseries, gardens, on a carousel, deep in crystal wastelands, amid an apocalypse, staging a protest, on the side of an iceberg, alongside windmills... you name it, it's probably been a Chanel runway show set.

J is for jewellery
Opulent jewels and stones are selected for the eye-wateringly expensive fine jewellery, which usually features camellias, stars, lions and the identifiable CC logo. The costume jewellery isn't limited to, but is often more seasonal and quirky pieces, I even spotted a pretzel brooch last time I was in the boutique (presumably from the pre-fall Salzburg show) - as in a German bready pretzel with sparkly sea salt chunks. Each to their own.

K is for karl
The German eighty-something-year-old (let's not ask) became Creative Director of Chanel in 1983. He also has his own line, not to mention his role as Creative Director at the Italian fashion house Fendi. Random fact, he claims to own 300,000 books - at the rate I'm going, I fear I may surpass him by the time I'm in my 80's. 

L is for lipstick
Branching out into the beauty sector, Chanel's luxe packaging of their makeup and skincare lines has streamlined the brand image and expanded the experience for their customer. Rouge Allure Velvet in La Fascinante is my favourite; a warm-toned classic deep red that simply goes with everything.

M is for mademoiselle
Gabrielle Chanel, known simply as Coco is the orphan turned show dancer, turned hat maker, turned designer. Somewhere along the way, her first love was killed in a horrific car accident, she became addicted to morphine, engaged in countless affairs with various aristocratic men and became a Nazi spy. Busy woman.

N is for no. 5
The fifth of 5 bottles presented to Gabrielle Chanel by the perfumer Ernest Beaux contained the formula for the perfume, hence the name No. 5. Coco wanted "a woman's perfume, with a woman's scent" and with one sold every 30 seconds, the world's best-selling scent is obviously that and more.

O is for opulence
Grandiose golds, luxurious silks, palatial interiors... Chanel oozes an extravagant luxury that you can't quite put your finger on. Velvet, leather, feathers, tweed, pearls, cashmere and silicon coated lace are amongst the rich fabrics and textiles used for the garments. Created by leading ateliers, intricate embroidery and detailed embellishments give a depth of detail that projects the collections onto a completely superior level of luxury.

 P is for pearls
Pearls are one of those classic Chanel signatures that exude classicism and elegance, so have been utilised in any which way possible. From surrounding sunglass frames, adorning earrings and slithering up the heels of boots, to dangling from earrings, twisted into chokers and even maximised to form a giant single pearl bag. The pearl has seen and done it all in the house of Chanel.

Q is for quilting
The classic 2.55 flap bag is Chanel's answer to the Birkin. Besides the logo, it's the quilting of the soft calfskin that makes it so irresistibly lust worthy. It's carried over to purses, shoes and gloves as well as the more unorthodox phone cases, umbrellas and wellington boots.

R is for rue cambon 31
Garielle Chanel lived between Rue Cambon and The Ritz, just across the Place Vendom, until her death. The Chanel store is at street level, haute couture dressing rooms are on the second floor, her apartment is on the third, and her workshop is on the fourth. It's become a tourist attraction of sorts housing that mirrored spiral staircase.

S is for sparkly sneaks
Trainers don't instantly conjure images of glamour and high-fashion, however Chanel pioneered the move towards a more comfortable approach to footwear. Of course, these aren't just any old trainers, they're created using python skin, tweed, lace, pearls and jewels with each pair reportedly taking 30 hours to make. If you were considering treating yourself to a pair then you may want to thing again as they can only be purchased with the full haute couture look, usually costing a casual £15,000 in itself. I didn't really want them that much anyway. 

T is for tweed
Jackets and twin-sets were the start of it but tweed is now a key textile in more or less every Chanel collection, with the fabric even prominently featuring in bags, earrings and shoes. Made in the Scottish Borders, Chanel tweeds are produced using techniques, methods and traditional machinery that simply can't be replicated anywhere else in the world.

U is for unbelievable underwear

Seen below on Stella Tennent (read my interview with her here) and Miranda Kerr, that barely-there-bikini is so obviously identifiable as an iconic piece of nineties fashion, particularly belonging to the 1996 Chanel show. Miranda Kerr and Cara Delevingne brought it back for an i-D Magazine shoot a couple of years ago - probably best that it didn't go mainstream.

V is for vintage
Vintage gained buzzword status and as Chanel was founded in 1909, that gives 106 years worth of drop-waist gowns and chain bags to ogle over. The rise of vintage shopping and desire to have an individual, unique piece gave new life to vintage items that were formerly considered "old" and drove their prices to skyrocket. 

W is for worst design
Even Karl Lagerfeld is human so it's okay that he makes mistakes from time to time. This logo-ified pink velour cardigan and sweatpant combo is completed by a matching bikini and bag. Very in-your-face, very Barbie, very possibly so bad that it's good. There's no prize for guessing where Jeremy Scott got his inspiration for Moschino's SS15 collection from...

X is for (e)xemplary
Fashion, like many other things, is completely hierarchical. Sitting pretty at the top of is of course, Chanel. The houses epitomises luxury and leads the way through creativity, innovation and quality - often leaving their competitors playing catch-up.

Y is for youth injection
"She would have hated me" said Lagerfeld of Chanel. He pushed and exaggerated classic Chanel themes; shaking things up and creating buzz when things went a little, shall we say... stale. His designs are very different to those of Gabrielle but he identified this as perfectly necessary to target a younger market and ensure that the reputation of the house remained intact.

Z is for zodiac
The surreal social media campaign surrounding Chanel's Chance included gifs and imagery detailing traits of different star signs and which Chance perfume suits you. Gabrielle Chanel was a Leo, hence the use of Lions, particularly on buttons and in her fine jewellery collections.