Into Another Garden with Chanel

There is talking about Chanel haute couture.   There’s seeing it from afar on (remaining…).   There’s about the exhibits, and being swept off by the set, the songs and the magic of it up close from the showroom.   Then there’s the ateliers, seeing the custom made types of their couture clients and also the job of the petite mains, who are not just mere hands in the work but staffs and women characters living and passionate in their task, be it at the workrooms of flou or tailleur.   Then there is the on-the-brink of death, but eventually restored and imprisoned métiers d’art ateliers in which you truly feast your eyes in the surfaces of haute couture – the stuff that’s bursting with statistics.   The hours per bit of embroidery.   The quantities of pailettes, crystals or feathers.   The weight of a sheet of cloth once embellished with sequins and bugle beads.   The volume of a dress after engorged with ostrich fronds.     I’ve been incredibly lucky to be privy each one the aforementioned. 

The way to top all of that?   Hmmmm…  oh I do not understand.   A dialogue that went something like this.   Or at least that’s how I performed with it in my mind when the notion was being gestated.

Chanel peeps: Can you like to put on pieces from the set for a number of photos?

Me: Errrrrrr…… yes?   By wear, do you mean put on?   Me?   Non-sample sized me and my post partum mini-me?

Chanel peeps: Yes you along with your mini-me.   Choose your looks!

MeAny look with a skirt which juts out and occupies the breadth of an extremely broad double vanity door with its amazing tulle gorgeness please.

Chanel peeps: Assessing!

There’s talking and then there’s wearing it.   And it’s the sporting that requires my interaction with the at once intimate and menacing world of Chanel haute couture to a different level of intimacy.   Obviously it needs to be stated that the pieces I’ve wore were samples.   Prototypes in the event you will, which will then choose a further-refined, custom-fit and possibly much-altered state when it reaches the body of a couture client.   However, the biggest takeaway from just a brief encounter (one hour to be precise…) with these bits was the second headrush giddiness of being in such close proximity to this amount of craft and effort.   Like”Wheeeeeeeee!   There’s THIS lots of sequins on me”   Or  “How much volume of fabric am I swathed in right now?!”

But also the whole switch from simply watching an couture bit of context be it in a show or on a mannequin at a museum to watching it.   For this specific Chanel Haute Couture S/S 18 set, that initially promenaded at a really quite French jardin, with its vertical hedges, intricate fountains and well-manicured lawns, I was keen on shooting it right into a very different sort of backyard.   A free-flowing one that’s a little on the wild side and overgrown in regions.   Step in the wonderful Chelsea Physic Garden, London’s oldest botanical garden with its 5,000 species of medicinal plants and an accompanying Language drizzle as our background to roughen up that French glow.

And whilst the original garden setting could happen to be a proper one, the burden of the dresses were truth mild.   Even the seemingly”large” dropped waisted tiered tulle skirt number using its beaded elongated bodice and pannier-esque double sided skirt.   It did not weigh heavy in your body and in factit was an aerated dip to it – an whiff of how 18th century court dress lightened for its current moment.   The flou of this group had a good deal of frou, exemplified by the ostrich feathered lace dress.   This is surely the casual number to throw on when trudging through the muddy plant banks of a February day in London.   There is a reverse perception too of bits that seem simple on the surface.   The easier”day look” off-shoulder poppy published chiffon in fact comprises of a whole lot of complex Maison Lognon pleating (in my Métiers d’Art hit list fo sho) and lots of patterns o attain an almost kaleidoscopic floral effect.   And then how can you resist a bijoux minidress, wrapped and tied with a gathering of empire line tulle and pink satin bow.   That is a chocolate box Chanel, complete with a matching pair of blue Massaro ankle boots.   They all traipsed and trailed through the Chelsea Physic Garden.

The next step of course would be,if I suddenly come in an quantity of riches, a telephone call to a Chanel vendeuse and lo, my own Susie-shaped apparel form from the atelier, could complete this couture trip that is somewhat implausible.   Obviously that will not be happening anytime soon.   This tiny garden adventure with the odor of wet grass in the atmosphere may well be the zenith.   Well, that’s just super fine by me.  The fleeting encounter only emphasises that haute’s height.

Photographs by Roisin Murphy

Movies by Joseph Wilson

Make-up by Victoria Bond

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