c.2014 New York Times News Service

c.2014 New York Times News Service

PARIS — Not since Marie Antoinette played milkmaid at Versailles has there been such a conjunction of high and low. But this time the milk — like everything else in the supermarket — was marked with the double C’s of Chanel.

At first glance, it may have looked like any old food hall, with garish plastic carts and heaps of fresh and packaged projects. But the signage gave away the secret: “PLUS 30 percent,” read a poster, while the figure drawn above a cash machine, pushing a cart in her tweed suit and hat, could only have been Coco Chanel.

Ask Karl Lagerfeld to outdo his tantalizing fake art gallery of last season, with its multiple pearls and double C references, and he obliges with a bag of jelly babies shaped to the house codes. Let them eat camellias!

The Chanel supermarket set that filled the Grand Palais here Tuesday was fascinating to look at even before the show started. “Délice de Gabrielle,” read a tin of tuna, referring to Mademoiselle Chanel’s real first name. “Cambonay,” read Camembert cheese, a play on the Rue Cambon, the street on which Coco Chanel once worked and where Chanel still has a store. “Elsa’s black rice — forbidden to great couturiers,” read a label that evoked an argument between Coco and Elsa Schiaparelli.

Why a supermarket?

“It is something of today’s life, and even people who dress at Chanel go there — it’s a modern statement for expensive things,” said Lagerfeld, who was part of the fashion world’s first high/low collaboration, with H&M, a decade ago.

The enormous setting required a fantastic show, and Lagerfeld delivered.

His first brilliant stroke, smart and commercial, was to translate the elaborate sneakers of January’s couture collection into sporty footwear. That alone would have dynamized the show, as Cara Delevingne stepped out in pink distressed leggings and tweed. Those easy pieces came in various guises, always shapely, achieved by using multiple zippers as the “bones” of a midriff corset.

All things Chanel were given a sporty treatment: the tweed suit with a brief A-line skirt and flat boots; coats long and loose (or sometimes short) wide and in bright colors like sunshine yellow or grass green. There might be a fluffy pink fur jacket, the color of boudoir makeup, or an elongated silver tunic and matching boots.

Knits made a merry parade, and the hose was always as thick as the shoes were flat. Only one couple, escapees from a Chanel store carrying bags featuring the brand’s logo, added a dash of the high life. Customers will surely want to take away irresistible items like a classic quilted Chanel purse with price tag stickers, a silver padlock as a necklace or quilting on a wheelie bag.

Was there something discomfiting, as well as incongruous, about turning an everyday experience into a theater of expensive fashion? When even Kate Middleton, the future queen of England, is seen pushing her cart around a supermarket, why not ask the same of Delevingne, model and crown princess of fashion eyebrows?

At Saint Laurent, Hedi Slimane became one of the first designers to drag fashion across the screen and take it downtown. Even when the clothes in his fall 2009 show were tailored and smartened up, the models acted like young women with a “don’t care” attitude.

Slimane stood backstage this week alongside one such woman: Clementine Creevy, 17, whose song “Teenage Girl,” originally sent to Rookie magazine, went viral. Expect the same for the sweet notes of “Had Ten Dollarz,” recorded especially for the Saint Laurent show in Paris on Monday.

If these young women with mascara-drenched eyes had $10 or, realistically, 100 times more, they would surely buy every one of Saint Laurent’s new pieces right off the runway, including the tailored coats stopping precisely where a short skirt, often twinkling with sequins, draws a line across the pantyhose that runs down to a pair of glittering Mary Janes. The short skirts, sweaters with Aran detail and the ever-present tailoring were all wearable, although not inventive other than in presentation.

There is something mesmerizing about Slimane’s Saint Laurent shows. As ever, the set was simple but hypersophisticated, with hydraulic metal bars folding down and then swinging up to create a long catwalk. It no doubt represented a road in Los Angeles, where friends were gathered, each reeking of sexuality from behind a black bow on a white satin collar or from the rounded capes, cut off just at that point on the thighs where a plaid kilt, scattered with sparkles, stopped.

These young women did not look as if they were having as much fun as two of the front-row guests, Alex Turner and Miles Kane, the British musicians behind the Last Shadow Puppets, who were swigging a bottle of Champagne. But there was something charming about the clothes, their proportions and the way the glitter came like puddles on asphalt to lighten the taut tailoring.


The droopy cardigans of Slimane’s earlier collections had been swept away and sweet flower patterns mostly extinguished. There were still frissons of bad girls, as seen in a dress printed with guns that also appeared in some of the pictures produced from the ashes of paintings that the Los Angeles artist John Baldessari had burned. Slimane said that Baldessari had been the show’s first inspiration.

“The project I did with John gave me the idea of proportion,” said the designer, whose short hemlines under the rounded capes created the memory stick of the show. “I started with three dresses, then the cape was a logic of evolution.”

Is it right for a designer to present clothes that seem to be reincarnations of what is already on the teen scene? With each collection, the Saint Laurent of Slimane seems increasingly convincing, a reinterpretation of the iconic designer of the early 1970s. The rejuvenated Saint Laurent girl has arrived in fashion. Or, as the Clementine Creevy lyrics go, “I know that she knows that it’s my way.”