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Chanel’s Airport-Themed Runway Show at #PFW Is a Fantastic Flight of Fancy

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This season for the Chanel show, the Grand Palais was transformed into an airport terminal, complete with check-in counters, an information desk, and monitors displaying the current time, as well as departing flight information for destinations such as Seoul, Dallas, and Dubai (all sites of recent Chanel extravaganzas). No expense had been spared in creating this set, for a 15-minute fashion show, which also included a typical airport waiting area, where Cara Delevingne, Annie Clark and Hudson Kroenig sat waiting for Uncle Karl’s flight to land.

“I don’t know where I am,” bemoaned Anna Dello Russo, arriving late and trying to find her seat as the show was about to take off. “I don’t know where I am.”

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In a sense, the entire experience of this show was a perfect expression of the current state of luxury fashion and a not-close-at-all expression of the current state of air travel, with hundreds of extraordinarily Chanel-clad women posing for selfies next to the emergency exits. You can’t imagine these women really fly commercial. Or there was the man behind the information counter who had no idea how to do anything besides hand out a press kit. Poor dear. At least he’s pretty. As we waited, a television reporter approached to ask what it was we expected to see here, perhaps an antidote to all of those slobs who board airplanes these days in sweatpants, shorts, and flip-flops?

Well, yes, and no. Karl Lagerfeld is an astute observer of the world, or at least the most refined, tiniest parts of our world that are exclusively inhabited by the ultra-rich, who travel on private jets with their pets and someone else managing the luggage. It was telling, for example, that there was no acknowledgment in this Chanel Airlines airport of a section called “coach.” And Lagerfeld’s designs embraced travel as if people actually still enjoyed flying, optimistically emblazoning dresses and knits with little patterns of planes. Some models toted Chanel plaid or quilted trollies, and others wore Chanel tweed ball caps or sandals with light-up soles (those would never pass TSA standards), and one even had tied her Chanel tweed jacket casually around her waist (pictured, below). It was, by luxury standards, a utopian vision of an airport – no lines at check in, no air rage, no checked baggage fees.

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Sometimes you wonder if designers, in the haste to create bigger statements with their runway shows, are beginning to lose touch with reality, or perhaps they are just not thinking about how their work will be received by the rest of the world. The Valentino designers Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli put white models in cornrows in their African “tribal” themed collection at their show on Tuesday, and as you can imagine, this did not go over entirely well. They can’t be surprised by the ensuing complaints of cultural appropriation on Twitter. Their pre-fall collection in January included images of white women in cornrows, too, and was similarly problematic, so why this again?

At Saint Laurent, Hedi Slimane studiously created a much friendlier revision of 1990s slip dresses and tiaras – you could practically see Courtney Love and Amanda de Cadenet parading to the Oscars parties in 1995 – only he pushed that look to its extreme, until some of the slip dresses were actually slipping off, exposing the models’ breasts. He also showed what were surely the most glamorous and impractical versions of Wellington Boots you will ever see outside of a music festival (at least when worn by Kate Moss, above left). Slimane’s approach is precise, but in this case incredibly savvy to the rest of the world as well, merchandised with denim, a camouflage jacket (above, right), a great trench, and, most importantly, easily relatable icons.

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Eric Wilson is Intlfashionstyle‘s fashion news director. For more real-time insights from #PFW, follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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