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Saturday 8 December 2012

Chanel Pre-Fall 2013: Lagerfeld, King of Scots?

Click here for previous Chanel posts.

As a Scot, I can be kind of snobbish about supposedly Scottish-themed fashion shows. However, this season's Chanel managed to avoid any of the expected ugly-tartan pitfalls and turned out to be just as spectacular as last year's Pre-Fall India collection. I suspect this is partly down to the fact that Karl Lagerfeld has the luxury of visiting Imaginary Scotland, which is significantly different from Real Scotland in that it primary contains castles and expensive whisky rather junkies, mud, and football hooliganism. Had it not been snowing on the night of the show, I can only assume that Lagerfeld would've hired kilt-wearing male models to grate ice-cubes onto the audience from the parapets above.
pics from
One of the problems with the backwards nature of fashion seasons is that when you're looking at Summer clothes it's usually Winter in real life, meaning that one's critical faculties are occasionally taken over by thoughts like: "WHY would anyone want to wear a floral miniskirt when everything is so damn cold?" Not so in this case, wherein the "Pre-Fall" (ie, Summer, as we would say in non-Fashionese) collection looks entirely suitable for the weather we're having in real life. I found it immensely comforting to know that all the models striding through the chilly hallways of Linlithgow castle got to wear flat shoes and blankets instead of looking knock-kneed and frostbitten as they so often do.

Lagerfeld's inspiration was a combination of Scottish history (specifically Mary Queen of Scots, who was born at Linlithgow castle) and Chanel heritage. Coco Chanel herself had close ties to Scotland, as she often stayed at the Scottish home of her lover the Duke of Westminster, and learned much about tweed and knitwear from the local clothing manufacturers. In fact, many of her masculine-styled suits were inspired by clothes she saw while on hunting parties in Scotland. The result of these two very different Scottish influences was a show mixing 16th century styles (MY FAVE; don't get me started on my love of pantaloons) and more typical (but still exquisite) knitwear and tweed outfits.

The reason for the unusual location this season was not due to a Lagerfeldian whim, for all that he embraced the Scottish theme. Over the past few years, Chanel has been producing collections honouring each of its offshoot workshops in turn. This year it's Scotland's Barrie Knitwear, which has been working with Chanel for decades but was only recently acquired by them (saving the company from liquidation, I believe).

I loved the warmth and layering in the more modern, street-style outfits. Lagerfeld can be very concerned with thinness (as a contrast to the traditionally boxy Chanel silhouette) so it was a welcome change to see these rather more padded-out styles. In some ways, several of them reminded me of traditional Russian and Eastern European-inspired designs such as those of Ulyana Sergeenko, possibly they acknowledge the existence of cold-weather clothes other than peacoats and cardigans.
I love both these outfits, even though neither are exactly my style. The above outfit has clear Mary Queen Of Scots-era inspirations in the form of the split-front skirt, whereas the outfit below is 100% mid-century Scottish Laird's wife.

OF COURSE my favourite section of the show was the series of outfits with clear links to the padded faux-armour of the 16th century. In most cases puffball skirts replaced outright pantaloons, but I loved the jackets tailored to resemble doublets, as well as all the ruff-like collars.

Oh, another detail I really appreciated about this show -- flat shoes. "Practical" isn't really something one expects from Chanel (especially Lagerfeld's Chanel), but this show proved that high-end designer clothes can be both interesting and comfortable.
Rather than the single traditional wedding dress at the end of the show, there was an entire final phase of white gowns -- all of them warm and taking certain elements of inspiration from Renaissance-era Scotland.

Click here for previous Chanel posts.


  1. Wow. Lagerfeld/Chanel have been really hit-or-miss in my book, and I get the impression that I might really dislike Lagerfeld as a human being, but credit where it's due: some of these are beautiful, interesting, and (at least to my eye) fresh.

  2. Unlike so much fashion-as-performance-art, there are actually things in this collection I'd actually wear! I seriously want a pair of the argyle tights.

  3. " junkies, mud, and football hooliganism.."
    Nice. Way to dispel stereotypes. Otherwise, good column.

  4. If you come from a country, I figure you're allowed to make fun of it.

  5. would you honestly walk down the street wearing any of this ?? its ridiculous, costume clothes. I seen the clothes personally, and the SA in Chanel are even freaking out, they don't even know how they are going pitch this line to their clients

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