Karl Lagerfeld has clearly been looking at footage from feminism's second wave for inspiration—but to what end?
The Spring 2015 Chanel collection he showed in Paris today consisted of boxy tweed pantsuits, oversized ties, and accessories nabbed straight off Gloria Steinem's face ca. 1972, albeit in a very recent psychedelic, watercolor motif. (He transitioned from there through the late '70s and into the early '80s, presenting his take on the power silhouette of that era.) Models also carried silver attachés—with prominent Chanel accessories, naturally—and slouchy cross-body messenger bags at the same time, which is fairly realistic for city women: work shit in one, gym shit in the other, the subway is our lounge on the way to everywhere we have to go.
All this is fine; if Lagerfeld wanted to present a new/old take on the working woman, fine, great, excellent. But by the finale, it leaves a bad taste: all the models emerged carrying picket signs in an approximation of a feminist protest, with Lagerfeld in the lead (side-eyyyye).
The messages are all very confused, and confusing, which gives the impression that Lagerfeld's notion towards woman empowerment was merely gestural, or that he was responding to what he perceives as a trend, something that was written about while he was designing this. Perhaps he was inspired by the FEMEN activists who stormed the Nina Ricci runway last year. Surely he has a load of strong, working women in his life, including Barbie (good timing, Karl!), but the messages on the signs seem like his grasp of the women he likely studied to create this collection is surface, at best. "Feministe Means Feminine"? What does that even mean? "Free Freedom"? Bold stance, Karl. "Tweed is better than Tweet?" Also: why is his feminist vision SO FUCKING WHITE?!
"We Can Match the Machos." Very 1972.
Here's Kendall Jenner, using this opportunity to promote #freethenipple.
It's not like fashion can't be feminist, or that there aren't prominent and self-proclaimed feminist designers like Miuccia Prada, Tory Burch, and Rodarte's Mulleavy sisters who infuse a feminist outlook into their every collection. It's also not like I would ever regulate how people practice feminism, or how people come into it, or shame anyone who is new to it and just learning: women need all the help we can get. But the tone of this Chanel show seems cynical, money-grabbing, slightly empty, the kind of thing in the '90s we called "co-optation." But because Karl is hallowed enough in the fashion industry and beyond—the kind of person who can, in one day, command $200k on just 999 Barbies in his image—people are writing things like, "If fashion can make the woman, Lagerfeld's is as empowered as they come." Seriously? My take on it: the most revolutionary picket sign on that runway was "Be your own stylist." The rest just feels like tokenism, empty marketing. Karl Lagerfeld, you may be a genius, but you are not our dad.
Images via Getty.