Pret-a-Reporter

Inside Chanel's Front Row Experience in Paris

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Models on the Chanel fall 2016 runway.

Pharrell, Willow Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith weren't the only ones to grab the best seats in the house — single rows of chairs were lined up for Karl Lagerfield's accessories-heavy presentation.

Karl Lagerfeld pared down again this season for Chanel, though certainly not on accessories which were piled on models in strings of pearls and stacks of bracelets, but in his presentation.

Following his serene couture show in January, Lagerfeld showed ready-to-wear against a simple and traditional backdrop of cream carpets and single rows of gold-backed chairs that recalled the salons of Coco herself. It’s a departure from his elaborate sets of the past — airplane hangars, a casino and a branded Chanel supermarket — but certainly reflective of the current mood that fashion’s pace is just a little trop.

The first shocking hot pink suit was classic Chanel, all tweed with a twist. This collection felt more referential than the recent shows with a very direct through line from the 1960s to the 1980s, leaving little subtlety to the references.

KARL'S CREW: Models in looks 37, 1 and 52 on the Chanel fall 2016 runway. (Photo: Getty Images)

But it was the casual toss of scarves that resembled sweatshirt sleeves, the bunch of the fingerless gloves overlayed with cat bracelets, and the knee-high socks peeking out of boots under a suit that made the moments seem modern before he ventured into other tactile territories. Then we arrived at oversized quilted coats that recalled the classic bag and (look 37) and puffy pale pink and black piped hoodie (look 52) on Kendall Jenner which was decidedly not looking back but forward.

The classics were there, but so was a cartoon tote any millenial that communicates mainly in emojis will love. Flat boots in various textures and colors unified the looks.

The evening wear was sublime, with a one-shouldered black gown skirted with pailettes that swooshed softly as they went by (look 79), and a gold dress with pearl detailing.

There were even a few men in the mix, in oversized blazers and trench coats.

With the runways laid out in a grid pattern, models marched in a criss-cross pattern, coming down the runway from both directions. The music pumped, styled by Michel Gaubert, with the lyrics "Everybody wants to be in a black hole, everybody wants to have a style" on repeat, before Lagerfeld took a bow with his 7-year-old godson Hudson Kroenig.

TAKE A BOW: Karl Lagerfeld with godson Hudson Kroenig (Photo: Getty Images)

Security was tight outside the Grand Palais, with a few disappointed would-be attendees turned away for not having photo ID that matched the invitation, and the feeling inside the venue is that there is a shift underway at Chanel. Yes it’s partially because Paris is in a state of flux with Dior and Lanvin currently leader-less, and the rumor amongst the big-name blogger crowd was that this was either Lagerfeld’s last show at the Palais, or that it was his last show altogether.

Inside the setting was serene even if the scene was not, with a veritable feeding frenzy surrounding Jada Pinkett Smith, Willow Smith (who was announced as a new Chanel ambassador Tuesday), Pharrell Williams and wife Helen Lasichanh, and singer Halsey in what would be the front row, but with the simple chair arrangement, every seat was a prime perch.

FRONT-ROW FANS: Helen Lasichanh and Pharrell Williams (Photo: Getty Images)

Afterwards Halsey declared the show "amazing," and said that the frenzy might prompt her to make some rash purchases. "I want to buy everything, but it looks good on the models and it makes me think it will look good on me, but I’m usually wrong," she joked.

It was the first fashion show for the singer, who's concert on Tuesday night in Paris is another hot ticket. She marveled at how kids these days — though she’s a scant 21 herself — know so much about fashion, from following it obsessively on social media and watching fashion shows live.

She was also overheard expressing opposition to Donald Trump, and said her Tuesday night concert in Barcelona gave her a bit of hope because the front row was filled with kids in Bernie Sanders t-shirts. "They’re not even American and can’t vote!"

"Chanel is about making you feel like a woman, beautiful and you know you’re wearing something special with Chanel. It’s great for my laziness because whatever I wear I’m chic," said model Caroline de Maigret.

For a collection that seemed to be a remembrance of things past, longtime friend and model Ines de la Fressange declared it "fresh."

"It’s not sentimental, and Karl is not sentimental," she said. "It’s every time a new thing and something fun and light, there is a bit of frivolity, and it’s the definition of fashion."

 

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