Not since Marie Antoinette played milk maid on her farm at Versailles has there been such a conjunction of high and low. But this time the milk ― like everything else in the supermarket ― was marked with the double C’s of Chanel.
At first glance it might have looked like any old food hall, with garish plastic trolleys and heaps of fresh and packaged projects. But the signage gave away the secret: “PLUS 30 percent,” read a poster, while the figure drawn above a cash machine, pushing a trolley in her tweed suit and hat, could only have been Coco Chanel.
Ask Karl Lagerfeld to outdo his tantalizing fake art gallery of last season, with its multiple pearls and double C references, and he obliges with a bag of jelly babies shaped to the house codes. Let them eat camellias!
The Chanel supermarket set that filled the Grand Palais in Paris was fascinating to look at even before the show started. “Délice de Gabrielle,” read a tin of tuna, referring to Mademoiselle Chanel’s real first name. “Cambonay,” read Camembert cheese, a play on the Rue Cambon, the street on which Coco Chanel once worked and where Chanel still has a store. “Elsa’s black rice ― forbidden to great couturiers,” read a label that evoked an argument between Coco and Elsa Schiaparelli.
“Why a supermarket? It is something of today’s life and even people who dress at Chanel go there ― it’s a modern statement for expensive things,” said Mr. Lagerfeld, who was part of the fashion world’s first high/low collaboration, with H&M, a decade ago.
The enormous setting required a fantastic show ― and Mr. Lagerfeld delivered. His first brilliant stroke, smart and commercial, was to translate the elaborate sneakers of January’s couture collection into sporty footwear. That alone would have dynamized the show, as Cara Delevingne stepped out in a pink onesie, or all-in-one outfit. Those easy pieces came in various guises, always shapely, achieved by using multiple zippers as the “bones” of a midriff corset.
All things Chanel were given a sporty treatment: the tweed suit with a brief A-line skirt and flat boots; coats long and loose, or sometimes short, wide and in bright colors like sunshine yellow or grass green that one might find on packaging. There might be a fluffy pink fur jacket, the color of boudoir makeup; or an elongated silver tunic and matching boots.
Knits made a merry parade, and the hose was always as thick as the shoes were flat. Only one couple, escapees from a Chanel store carrying bags featuring the brand’s logo, added a dash of the high life.
Then there were accessories that mixed wit and wisdom. Customers will surely want to take away irresistible items like a classic quilted Chanel purse with price tag stickers, a silver padlock as a necklace, or quilting on a wheelie bag.
Was there something discomfiting, as well as incongruous, about turning an everyday street experience into a theater of expensive fashion? When even Kate Middleton, the future Queen of England, is seen pushing her trolley around a supermarket, why not ask the same of Ms. Delevingne, model and crown princess of fashion eyebrows?
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