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Catwalk classics

The managing director of Chanel talks about Karl Lagerfeld's take on the little black dress

Published on January 16, 2008

Ask Guillaume Sauzin, the managing director for Chanel, who inspires him the most and he doesn't hesitate for a second. "Madame Coco Chanel," he replies, the reverence evident in his voice.

"The luxury fashion business is not about marketing but about art and creativity. Coco Chanel was one of the foremost examples of this creative vision. She totally revolutionised fashion in her time."

Fashionistas will soon be able to see that creativity on a starlit midnight blue catwalk as top models showcase the ready-to-wear Spring/Summer 2008 collection by Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel at the Emporium World Fashion Showcase.

Chanel Thailand was established more than 10 years ago, Sauzin explains, but it only focused on the brand's cosmetic line. Over the years, the company kept moving forward, always inspired by the creative sense of its founder.

"Coco made many breakthroughs. She was clearly one of the most important artists of the 20th century. She wanted to free women and get rid of the concept of decorative fashion that constrained their dresses. To her, fashion was comfortable, practical and free. She had a real sense of detail and craftsmanship.

"Look back at the fashion of her time and you'll see how artificial it was. She was the first to question the need for rules and ask why we can't use men's clothing. She was the first to introduce trousers for women, to use tweed and make costume jewellery with real jewels. She borrowed many things from men in her designs for women, which at that time was completely unthinkable.

"She was very brave even in her personal life. She didn't come from a privileged background. She was an orphan and was raised by nuns in the south of France. She single-handedly revolutionised fashion in France and at a time when people were much more conservative than they are today. It was very difficult to succeed," he adds.

And even today, Coco Chanel inspires the staff at the company she founded. "We could always take a normal approach to running the business, the best option that everyone could follow but don't. We are never scared to do something different. That idea comes from Coco Chanel and we follow it to the letter."

Today, Lagerfeld is in charge of creating the designs for the brand's ready-to-wear collection.

"He's a very impressive man with a tremendous work ethic and a great ability to work. He's fascinating to listen to and not in the least superficial. He's a true artist in the history of fashion.

For the past 25 years, since Lagerfeld has been in charge, he's managed to combine the true spirit of time and the Chanel identity - the little black dress, the tweed jacket, the Camellia, the pearl. "He knows fashion and is somehow able to link these qualities in his designs - between the past and the present."

The new line is supple, touched with a lightness and fluidity, sometimes playing with optical illusions of bold half-moons that slim the waistline. There's plenty of denim - in wide jeans, very narrow vests, mini-dresses, trench coats and even swimsuits and red, white and blue prints - a nod to America and its star spangled banner - on tops, trousers, dresses, and men's shirts.

The highlight is the "ankle bag" or an ankle bracelet with a cute little bag for the woman who, according to Lagerfeld, "crosses her legs in a night club and leaning over and pulling out her lipstick becomes a very beautiful gesture".

Sauzin says that customers nowadays are very knowledgeable and well informed. As a result, the label has already received a substantial number of requests from Thai customers.

"Lagerfeld's collections are immediately recognisable as Chanel creations but, at the same time, they are very much designed for today. If you look back at the past five or ten years, his collections combine the classic and the modern and because they are unmistakably Chanel, they do not go out of style. They have that eternal quality," says Sauzin.

Kupluthai Pungkanon

The Nation

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