At Rue Cambon, the Chanel boutique is the original showroom where Gabrielle Chanel lived and worked. A family reunion in Paris a few months ago gave me the opportunity to visit this exquisite atelier.
L'Hôtel de Ville, Paris
While my husband and father-in-law visited famous monuments such as the Hôtel de Ville, and his siblings and my father explored museums, my mother-in-law and I made our pilgrimage to that couture museum, La Maison Chanel.
We started by enjoying a leisurely cup of hot chocolate and a pastry at Angelina, Gabrielle Chanel’s favorite restaurant. Apparently, she lunched there almost daily. Then Maxi and I started to walk towards Rue Cambon. It was a chilly evening and we clutched our hand-knitted scarves as we strolled past the Place Vendôme, peeking into the windows of famous jewelry shops on the way. Cartier, Piaget, Lalique, Van Cleef and Arpels, Bulgari--every window sparkled with diamonds and giant pearls, including that of the Chanel jewelry boutique:
The Vendôme column celebrating Napoleon’s victory at Austerlitz is under construction at the moment, and across the square, the Ritz is boarded up for repairs. The square used to consist of boutiques of high-end designer clothing, but extravagant jewelry has taken over completely!
We plunged into a warren of narrow streets in pursuit of our hearts’ desire, passing lit windows of boutique after boutique displaying tantalizing sweaters by unknown designers.
Window dressing is elevated to a fine art in Paris, which explains why window-shopping is such a past-time there. The Parisians call it “window licking” (leche-vitrines) because the displays are so luminous and tempting they seem almost edible!
Turning towards the windows also gave us respite from the clouds of cigarette smoke blown into our faces by the advancing mass of pedestrians. Smoking is everywhere and I was not surprised when my father explained that Paris is now considered the most polluted city in Europe as it was sometimes difficult for me to breathe. I don't know if this is because the city is shaped like a bowl, collecting smog, but my father takes allergy medicine just to get through his frequent sojourns with friends here, and many of us followed his example.
At last, the doors of Chanel beckoned us out of the smoggy twilight and we rushed inside!
We had chosen a good moment to visit, an hour before closing time. The swarm of tourists which floods the boutiques had noticeably thinned, and concentrated in the accessory rooms. This meant we had the clothing boutique almost to ourselves. On display were the models from the Ready to Wear 2015/2016 Fall Winter Collection. The fashion show for this collection was set in a Paris restaurant, which is why the window display shows a mannequin dressed as an upscale diner next to the sign, "Brasserie Gabrielle." He is so inventive, that Karl Lagerfeld!
Although I had pored over the models from this collection on my computer and television screens, it was completely different examining the garments closely myself!!
Although I faithfully watch all of Lagerfeld’s fashion shows on youtube, in person, the colors are unimaginably richer, the details sparkling and bold. For example, this vest which looks like nothing special via image is actually a gorgeous metallic purple interwoven with gold and jade green. I would have loved to purchase it, but even a vest at Chanel is beyond my means! As we walked from model to model, dogged by a determined salesperson to protect the clothes, I couldn’t suppress squeals of delight. This is what we saw:
Naturally, photos are not allowed in the store, so I am using photos from Chanel to give you a sense of some of the gorgeousness we saw. As a textile enthusiast, I am always the most interested in the fabrics themselves. You simply cannot find knit wear anywhere else in the world with that complexity of color, texture and depth, in my opinion.
Look at this humble Chanel scarf displayed in the window, which I photographed on the way out for you!
And here is a fascinating crocheted beaded belt, displayed in the window as well.
No matter how much he steals from vintage shapes and looks, Lagerfeld always manages to keep the clothes modern and with a bit of an edge:
Our photos were limited to the display windows. But how rich they were! It is the artistry of the way the clothing is combined that to me is almost as fascinating as the clothing itself. As captivated as I had been by the collection when I saw it in movie form on my television screen, the colors of the fabrics and trims were so much more beautiful and lustrous in person, that I was really moved.
I did not have the opportunity to see this piece which I love in person:
But I am determined to knit something vaguely inspired by this color scheme some day. I would also love to knit a fair isle sweater in purple, green and gold, although I could never even imagine how to create such an intricate design. But my interest in Chanel is more that of an inspiration that will fuel my imagination and make me dream of things I never considered possible in knitwear! Just composing this blog reminds me of the happy hour we spent at the Rue Cambon!