Chanel collection takes inspiration from American West
By Jamie Stengle
Published: Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld drew inspiration from the American West for his annual Metiers d'Art traveling fashion show in Dallas.
Chanel turned one of the halls at Fair Park, Dallas' Art Deco exhibition venue, into a barn for the night, complete with a hay-scattered runway. Models in Western-style hats and boots wore outfits adorned with fringe, leather and feathers. The final model was dressed in an all-white ensemble that included fringed pants and a floor-grazing feather headdress.
Lagerfeld said he was inspired by “the idea of the old Texas, even before the Civil War.” He noted that his cowboys were “not typical cowboys, they are transposed, very sophisticated.”
Many of the outfits included Native American-inspired prints, with most of the models wearing a single feather in their hair. Denim also made frequent appearances on the runway.
For more than a decade, Lagerfeld has picked a city linked to the fashion house for the theme of the show staged each December to highlight the work of its artisans.
Chanel founder Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel visited Dallas in 1957 at the invitation of Stanley Marcus, head of Neiman Marcus, the Dallas-based luxury retailer founded by his family. She was given a warm welcome in the city — picked up at the airport in a white Rolls-Royce and feted at a Western-theme party complete with a catwalk featuring cows.
The evening's festivities began with the premiere of a 20-minute film written and directed by Lagerfeld, “The Return,” that retraced the steps of Coco Chanel as she reopened her Paris couture house in 1954 after shuttering it as Europe entered World War II.
The film was screened in an exhibition hall that had been transformed into a drive-in movie theater. Dozens of classic cars faced four screens. Lagerfeld, Vogue editor Anna Wintour and former Vogue editor-at-large Andre Leon Talley climbed into a black Cadillac convertible to take in the film.
After the runway show, guests partied in a re-creation of a honky-tonk bar. Classic country music played while the well-heeled guests — including model Lauren Hutton and actresses Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning — walked on a floor strewn with peanut shells. There was even a mechanical bull.
The couture house's return in 1954 after 15 years wasn't well-received by the French press but was embraced by the Americans.
During Coco Chanel's September 1957 trip to Dallas, she was given the Neiman Marcus Award for Distinguished Service in the Field of Fashion.
The next month, the department store, celebrating its 50th anniversary, launched the Fortnight celebrations, which became famous for bringing festivities and offerings inspired by a certain country to the city. The title that year was “France Comes to Texas.”
Photos from Coco Chanel's visit include her posing for a picture with a Western-attired Stanley Marcus and his wife at the party at a ranch where she took in the cow fashion show in addition to watching square dancers.
“She was very mesmerized by the idea of Texas, so they threw a barbecue for her,” Neiman Marcus fashion director Ken Downing said. “The story goes she actually didn't like the taste of the barbecue, and she tossed her plate under the table, which, as the story goes, went all over Elizabeth Arden's red satin shoes.”
The film that premiered in Dallas followed Lagerfeld's 2012 film “Once Upon a Time ...”, an exploration of Coco Chanel's early days in fashion in Deauville. That film debuted in May in Singapore.
Other cities that have served as inspiration for the Metiers d'Art show include Tokyo, New York, London, Shanghai and Edinburgh, Scotland.
The Western-theme collection, which will be in boutiques in May, highlights the work of the artisans who are part of a Chanel subsidiary company, including a feather and flower maker, a milliner, shoemaker and glovemaker.
Jamie Stengle is a staff writer for the Associated Press.
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