I'm writing in the immediate aftermath of the Chanel Spring/Summer 2012 Catwalk Show in Paris.
Having been around at the time, here is a petite resumé of my thoughts about the collection...
The SS12 Collection was in fact centred upon a maritime theme. Whilst this might conjure up an initial association of sailors and the inescapably French Breton stripe, this season Largerfeld was definitely thinking more Arial from the Little Mermaid than Abraham (trying to work in a Moby Dick reference there.) This delightful starting point saw an array of details reminding me strongly of hippy bead sellers and 70's bathrooms, two things that I don't find it difficult to imagine Largerfeld being wildly enthusiastic about incorporating into his eternal quest for 'çhic'.
During his dive into Seaworld Lagerfeld dredged up shell references in the form of undulating layers of tuille and netting...
and created some sea monsters in the form of the collection's accompanying footwear.
The pedigree of a house like Chanel means that an undeniably high level of quality is retained each season. The boots, dresses and models were immaculately constructed by a gifted team of creators who are truly some of the best in the industry. The inclusion of pearl of a singer Florence Welch emerging from a giant shell in the Grand Palais to treat the audience to a rendition of songs from her new album, What The Water Gave Me, was another stroke of forward thinking from the creative team.
It must be said however that despite these fantastic resources, the creative direction of this collection felt weak and uninspired. This is pretty evident from the number of wayward ensembles lacking togetherness, garments cut oddly just for the sake of making difference, and the occasional faux pas such as the black and white dress modeled by Stella Tennant (proportions?! where were they? anybody?!)
It feels as if this season Chanel has tried to copy Prada in the daring approach to design and the resolve to make something of inherently bad taste both chic and desirable. But Chanel's strength doesn't lie in this route. It has derived it's eternal fan base from providing timeless classics, reinterpretations of established formulas, and it is here that it should remain to keep it's cash registers ringing. I doubt that this season's collection will be one that is remembered or admired for long, and it is unlikely to attract the kind of frenzy that normally greets Chanel's output.