Reba Maybury de-codes Karl Lagerfled’s Chanel SS15 staged protest down Rue Du Chanel, the sea of comment that followed and what fashion means to feminism.
Grey striped cashmere body, long cashmere cardigan, gold leather belt by CHANEL OPPOSITE white cotton lace dress by CHANEL, jewellery Reba’s own
Presenting his SS15 ready-to-wear collection in Paris last September, Karl Lagerfeld, the man-monolith behind Chanel, made people talk. And we’re not talking conversations about original cuts, alternative casting or an eclectic montage of references. No. This show caused ripples worldwide, with discussions about the ethics of Lagerfeld’s presentation. The catwalk became a space for performance, and it’s not unlike Chanel to present a spectacle.
Hand-picking some of the world’s most in- demand supermodels – from Cara Delevingne, Kendall Jenner and Charlotte Free to Binx Walton and Giselle Bündchen – and sending them stampeding down a custom-constructed fake Parisian street in the Grand Palais (which he aptly named Rue du Chanel), the girls carried placards mimicking a feminist protest. “HE FOR SHE”, “BOYS SHOULD GET PREGNANT TOO” and “HISTORY IS HER STORY”, they read. Other models shouted their cat-calls through custom-created Chanel loud speakers – quite the riot. But what was the aim here, really? Was it merely a cunningly executed marketing ploy, capitalising on a hot topic? In 2015, in our Social Media-driven world, success is based on clicks, Likes and trending topics. With high-volume Instagram, Twitter and Facebook coverage guaranteed within seconds at Chanel shows, cynics have accused Lagerfeld of jumping on the feminism 2.0 bandwagon.
Of course, it’s not new for the fashion industry to respond to topical humanist debate in order to engage with its audience. From Steven Meisel’s complex editorials depicting the Iraq war to The New York Times’ “What to Wear to A Protest?” piece in 2011, which saw protesters at an Occupy gathering run through their wears – politics and fashion are intrinsically linked. In reality though, Lagerfeld’s feminist protest was another necessary reminder of the glaringly real problems many women face.
And what many of these critics haven’t addressed is the Chanel dynasty’s staunchly pro-human rights stance. Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel is widely regarded as one of the 20th century’s most important feminists. Building a global business, Chanel set women free from the corset and other impossibly restrictive clothing by introducing a custom silhouette and androgynous shapes. The clothes were designed on notions of comfort and practicality rather than pandering to male desire.
So whether you felt Lagerfeld’s protest was right or wrong, irresponsible or childish, it’s certain that the fashion industry has the power to make a change. Granted, it wasn’t the most truthful portrayal of protest, but Chanel has always been about dousing things in generous helpings of fantasy. And when the women who need feminism most are often the ones who know least about it, maybe they will have watched the SS15 Chanel show and felt empowered.
Black painted tweed cotton jacket and skirt both by CHANEL
White silk blouse, black lace dress by CHANEL, jewellery Reba’s own
White cotton lace dress by CHANEL, jewellery Reba’s own
Pink floral jersey blouse, grey cotton tweed jacket, cotton tweed trousers, and pearl and gold brooch all by CHANEL
White organdi blouse, patent lambskin striped shorts, black patent leather belt and jewelled perspex whistle all by CHANEL, black patent thigh high boots Reba’s own
White embroidered tweed dress and black patent leather belt by CHANEL
White cotton lace skirt by CHANEL, black patent thigh Production credits BRAND NAME high boots Reba’s own
Words: Reba Maybury.
Photographer: Harry Carr.
Fashion Editor: Matthew Josephs.
Photographic Assistant: Chloe Le Drezen.
Set Designer: William Farr.