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After the supermarket, the brasserie, the demonstration and the casino, what adventure did Chanel have planned for its SS16 show? The ticket arrived in the form of a boarding pass — Chanel Airlines would be departing at 10.30am from Grand Palais. I imagined the space transformed into a vast mall of duty-free with Chanel whisky and cigarettes — well, it’s the retail environment wherein so much Chanel merchandise is shifted, after all.
In fact Terminal Chanel was white, spacious and altogether first-class: a departures board at gate No 5 announced the house’s recent outings to Salzburg, Shanghai, Dallas and Seoul (where its most recent cruise collection was hosted in May); ground attendants lined Chanel-themed check-in desks in jaunty print scarves while strapping luggage-handlers minded baggage counters dressed in Chanel Airline tees. That the luxury client is a creature of travel is well-known, and the signifiers here were painfully familiar to those editors now on day 26 of this seasonal fashion odyssey. Would there be Chanel in-flight sleep-suits?
Sadly not, but there were loose jersey trousers that could be described as track-pants, and silky print trousers and shirts fit for the club lounge. The clothes were designed for ease of movement, with lots of zipper fronts and tied layers — shirts and feather-light separates were knotted at the waist — and the trademark tweeds were soft, clean and uniformly smart. In a week in which the head of personnel at Air France was stripped of his apparel by embattled airline staff, there was a sumptuous irony in seeing Chanel’s pristine steward suits here: let them eat (departure) gate.
The travel tropes were both discreet and disarming. One expected the quilted wheelie Coco case, abstract cloud prints and coloured aviators; less so the departure-gate printed silks or the flyaway skirts with their arrivals-letter tiles. And what about the Birkenstock-style sandals with their fly-me runway lights down the soles, as though the models might actually take flight?
At this point, Chanel is less a fashion show and more a branding spectacle (even more so considering this near-coincides with the launch of an immersive Chanel exhibition, Mademoiselle Privé, at the Saatchi Gallery in London — replete with its own experiential Chanel No 5 scent room). There were beautiful clothes but the message here was so much bigger than that of which skirt length will be key next season (mid-calf and kick-flared, as it happens).
After so many setpieces, possessing a Chanel show ticket has become something akin to owning a freedom pass at Alton Towers: a fully realised first-class experience which is less about the fashion and all about the ride. Which perhaps detracts a little from the fact that this was a superb collection. By the final call, Karl Lagerfeld had offered a genius blend of pop, classic, trophy and jaw-dropping pieces fit for every type of far-flung adventure. Even for those of us who simply dream of going home.
For more reports from the shows, go to our fashion weeks page on FT.com
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