Yellow Faced Chanel

December 7, 2009

‘Coco’ Chanel never visited China. But her passion for Asian antiques and interest in the multi-millennium Chinese culture were the basis for an extraordinary fashion fantasy, dreamed up by Chanel’s creative director, Karl Lagerfeld.

Last week, Chanel showed its pre-fall collection in Shanghai.  This was Karl Lagerfeld’s first trip to the city, and he noted the show, in which models wore rice-paddy hats, wasn’t about the real China, but his China:

“It is about the idea of China, not the reality,” Lagerfeld told WWD on his first trip to Shanghai. “It has the spirit of, and is inspired by, but is unrelated to China. It is not authentic like a Peking Opera or something.”

Elaborate, as Chanel’s pre-fall efforts tend to be, the show was staged on a custom-buit barge with a glass front that faced the famous skyscrapers of Pudong. The boat didn’t actually sail anywhere during the show, but it did kick off with a special film in which Coco Chanel fantasizes about going to sixties China and muses about making a collection inspired by a Mao suit. But there’s more:

In a potentially controversial move, Europeans in yellow face play some of the Chinese characters. Lagerfeld defended this as a reference to old films. “It is an homage to Europeans trying to look Chinese,” he explained. “Like in ‘The Good Earth’, the people in the movie liked the idea that they had to look like Chinese. Or like actors in ‘Madame Butterfly’. People around the world like to dress up as different nationalities.”

Ummm yeah…


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