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Friday, 14 March 2014

On Chanel, Baudelaire and exposing my ankles


Last Tuesday I woke up to find my Twitter feed inundated with ‘Grams from Karl's opulent production for Chanel earlier that morning in Paris. "Kewl," I thought to myself and went about my morning. I got up and began to prepare for my daily conquest of caffeine, endorsing a look I don't usually exhibit in publicblack leggings and Nike Frees. I've recently come to embrace the look and feel of being comfortable, finding myself donning the ensemble to the gym (natch), to the supermarket and even to a Friday night dinner with my girlfriends. 

Later that day whilst catching up on fashion week reviews and editing some stories, my habitually inquisitive disposition led my mind to wander afar, and sooner or later I had clicked my way into the video of the presentation. Within six seconds I immediately found myself playing the role of Walter Benjamin's interpretation of Baudelaire's flȃneur—a voyeur of sorts. Meaning I observed. I observed Cara, Nadja and Grace, congregating within this space, sauntering through walkways and coming to stops mid-walk to size up what seemed to be products displayed on shelves. The mise-en-scène: an ostensibly post-modern depiction of a 19th century Parisian arcade—one of the main facets Baudelaire wrote of in Les Fleurs du mal—what with the Grand Palais' high arches, evocative of those synonymous with the arcades. 



The "shopping centre", the work of set designer Stéfan Lubrina, was stocked with endless shelves and skids of products emblazoned with the French fashion house's patent insignia and a slew of corresponding motifs ("Boîte à Bobos de Coco,” read an immaculately stacked pyramid of first aid kits). It was then that I began to actually look into the satirical messages of consumerism behind the presentation itself. Yes, these things excite me immensely. Like most people, I was initially awed by the visuals; downright blinded by them. Completely enamoured. Still completely enamoured, and in retrospect, completely enamoured at how the certain ideas of consumerism were ever so tacitly employed despite the in-your-face props. 

In his essay "Shopping for Pleasure: Malls, Power, and Resistance" American media scholar John Fiske compares shopping centres and the act of consumption to certain characteristics of religion. “Commodities become the icons of worship,” Fiske writes—this idea completely embedded into the presentation as the audience's gaze becomes fixated on the set and the clothing worn by the models, who they themselves are totally immersed in the products on the shelves. True.


Fiske also explores the stereotypical implication of those of the double-X chromosome being "mere consumers" in a capital-driven society governed by their male counterparts, which could in fact be assumed of the presentation. Besides Jarrod Scott (more on him in a bit) alongside Nadja there are no other male models on the roster. Also, Cara accompanying Karl during his bow as per usual. Come on! 

Despite the aforementioned claim, Fiske argues that shopping, in the eyes of women, can be depicted as a “source of achievement, self-esteem, and power.” Fair enough, Fiske. I supposed this one's for the girls who define shopping as a sport. We see NadjaJarrod in towdressed in a conventional pink tweed skirt-and-jacket combo (very feminine) in conjunction with a complicated looking knee-high sneaker slash boot (a derivative of the scintillating trainer Karl had showcased just weeks prior during couture week). Walking in unison, Jarrod follows closely totting an excess of rue Cambon carriers as Nadja surveys and selects the products, thus asserting her dominance over him when it comes to the terrain of shopping.


Model after model meandering through the interlocking aisles in search of their next acquisition; a petri-dish collection of multi-coloured tweed overcoats, hot pink feathered dresses and leather shorts over pants. Although one look in particular was in abundance: leggings and running shoes. Together. Woo! And just as I've began to embrace the not-so-recent and quite lucrative trend, which has been germinating from runways to strip malls for the past few years now (re: Marant). I'm guessing my nascent interest in the fitness movement couldn't have come at a better time.

So what exactly can we extrapolate from this elaborate presentation? Is Karl Lagerfeld perpetuating female stereotypes? Am I looking too deeply into this? Are people actually going to purchase torn leggings? I guess none of that matters so long as the legging and trainer combo will remain cool enough to don until at least next winter.