Chanel’s turn at Marienbad

Chanel spring/summer 2011
Last Year at Marienbad
Delphine Seyrig’s costumes by Coco Chanel

Ah, Karl, you’ve done it again. Herr Lagerfeld’s latest masterstroke for Chanel was inspired by the  1961 film L’Année Dernière à Marienbad (Last Year at Marienbad). This pairing presents a double whammy for lovers of fashion and film. Firstly, Coco Chanel herself created the wardrobe for lead actress Delphine Seyrig. Secondly, one of the overriding themes of the film is déjà vu—and Lagerfeld’s overriding theme at Chanel is essentially a sort of déjà vu, non? Every season the Chanel staples are reinterpreted, from the tweed suits to the latest incarnation of the Little Black Dress. This isn’t a criticism, as Lagerfeld’s work always has a freshness to it (and, hell, I’m a fan). But I digress…

For spring/summer 2011, Lagerfeld once again took over Paris’ Grand Palais (I’ve been to three Chanel shows in that venue—so amazing with its light and height). But instead of building a set that almost breaks through the glass ceiling (giant jackets, tubular bells, anyone?), this season he kept things low to the ground with an ornamental monochrome garden. This referenced both the manicured garden in the film, but also the baroque ornamentation of the film’s interiors.

The movie itself (which, after some searching, I eventually managed to track down at Title, naturally) is stylised to within a millimetre of its screen life. And while many of Chanel’s leitmotifs were apparent in Seyrig’s ensembles—two-tone kitten heels, chain belts, a succession of LBDs, fabulous costume jewellery—Lagerfeld’s interpretations of it were immediately evident in his SS2011 collection.

The feathers of two particularly memorable outfits—the most overblown white négligée ever to be committed to celluloid, I’m guessing, and a wonderful black feathered cape—returned as trims on collars, cuffs and hems, and towards the end (as in the movie) came out in further abundance.

That aforementioned baroque ornamentation—seen on walls, ceilings, light fittings—made its way onto a succession of monochrome dresses in the latter part of the show. And a number of black lace dresses and trims were also evident, as per the film. The only perplexing details in the parade were the distressed pieces, which looked to have been ripped or scratched. But given the suggested “holes” in the memory of Seyrig’s character in the film, and the suggestion that a sexual encounter that may (or may not) have happened may (or may not) have been “forced” may (or may not) explain those pieces. Literal, moi?

PS. As a final note, here’s the video of Blur’s “To the End”—another fabulous homage to this stylish—if perplexing—film.

Film stills: © 1960 StudioCanal – Argos Films – Cineriz (Rome)
Catwalk shots courtesy of Chanel


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