It wasn't nostalgia that brought Karl Lagerfeld back to his hometown, the northern German city of Hamburg, where on Wednesday evening he showed Chanel's Métiers d'Art new collection, but an architectural inspiration.
The wave-shaped roof of the Elbphilharmonie building, the gigantic (and disputed for its high costs - 798 million euros) concert hall designed by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron, provided indeed the starting point for this collection.
Overlooking the port of Hamburg and built on the biggest dockside warehouse, the imposing concert hall looks like a ship ready to set sail, so it was only natural that the marine theme inspired most of the collection, in particular the opening sailors' looks that borrowed a lot from the clothing and safety equipment for the maritime industries.
In the first section of the show most of the male and female models who walked in the concert hall to live orchestral music composed by British cellist Oliver Coates and played by a 35-piece orchestra, donned oversized navy cable knits, button front wide-leg trousers and elbesegler caps (sailors' peaked hats) decorated with sparkling brooches (or with tulle veils for the evening) and reminiscent of the '60s and The Beatles after their spell in Hamburg between 1960 and 1962. Thick thigh-high woollen leg-warmers and bags shaped like accordions accessorised some of the looks.
The sailor inspiration continued in Chanel's classic tweed suits transformed via sailors' collars or reinvented with a striped motif created in tiny feathers.
Further architectural references were hidden away in the sequins and metallic threads on tweed jackets, hinting maybe at the lights on the Elbphilharmonie's facade.
There was also a more industrial inspiration that actually proved more interesting and that could have been explored further: the stretchy knits with geometrically ordered rusty orange, red and blue grid patterns were actually inspired by the rows of coloured cargo containers you can easily spot in commercial ports. This inspiration became clearer also in the bags matched with these designs that were shaped like the cargo containers in Hamburg's dockside.
After seeing the bags people familiar with art and architecture may have thought immediately to the works of Joshua Smith, the Australia-based miniaturist and former stencil artist.
Well-known for his reproductions of derelict buildings and other assorted urban features, Smith creates from cardboard, paper, plastruct, and fabric miniature cargo containers inspired by the ones in the Hong Kong docks.
The cargo container as a bag was a good idea (that will undoubtedly be copied pretty soon as it happened to other Chanel bags...), but you felt it would have been even better if Smith had added his touch to the container bags (he creates wonderful graffiti on his miniatures). Maybe this could be an idea for the next Métiers d'Art designs, a collaboration with a cool artist that may go with the exclusive artisanal pieces in the collection (that should also be edited to be more entertaining and less tiring...).
Chanel's Métiers d'Art collections are produced to celebrate Chanel-owned luxury ateliers (the company bought 22 since 2002). In the Hamburg collection the garments were made by Maison Michel (millinery), Barrie (Scottish cashmere), Causse (glove maker), Desrues (buttons and costume jewellery) and Goossens (jewelry – see the brooches, star-shaped cap pins and crystal bootie bows), Lemarié (feathers) and Lesage (sequinned details and embroidery). By 2020 the ateliers (serving Chanel and also other houses) will all be gathered under one building that will be located in the Parisian suburb of Aubervilliers.
In the meantime, Lagerfeld has announced that his current love affair with architecture will continue and that he would like to do a runway next year at the new courthouse in the north of Paris designed by Renzo Piano. It will be interesting to see if there will be references in the clothes to Piano's architecture.