Her name may be known the world over, but more than 40 years after her death, Gabrielle Chanel is still something of an enigma. The couturier’s complicated, multifaceted nature may live on in the paradoxical codes of the maison she founded, where beauty and practicality, style and comfort, the rough and the noble, and the elegant and the nonchalant effortlessly coexist – but for the campaign for Chanel’s newest replica bag, Karl Lagerfeld plays with that not-yet-fully-answered question: who was Gabrielle Chanel?
The bag, which is called Gabrielle, is dedicated to the house’s iconic founder. It features all the Chanel replica trademarks, and is characterised by its practicality, ease and comfort – all of the things that informed Gabrielle’s aesthetic and made her creations such a revelation when they were first launched. In February 1955, when Gabrielle unveiled the now iconic 2.55 bag, she did so with a mind to creating a replica handbag that was liberating – the gold chain strap, revolutionary at the time, was strong, supple and light, and freed up the wearer’s hands. Inspired by the binocular cases carried by men when they went to the races, and by other elements of menswear design, the now all-too-familiar lines of the 2.55 were envisioned with both aesthetics and practicality in mind.
First shown during Chanel’s spring/summer 2017 ready-to-wear runway show, the Gabrielle bag takes this one step further. The main body of the fake bag sits on a rigid thermoformed base, which is light, supple and stable. It is designed to hug the silhouette and move with it. The pièce de résistance is an adjustable strap with a double chain, in both gold and silver metal, interlaced with leather. This facilitates three ways of wearing the bag: either over one shoulder, across the body or across both shoulders, with the chain going over one shoulder and then diagonally over the other. It is designed to adapt to its wearer’s needs, environment, character and mood.
The bag is crafted from aged calfskin, with a quilted body and a smooth base, and comes in black or white, or a combination of black and white, navy and black, or beige and black. There is also a black python version and iterations in jaunty shades of yellow, pink, red, blue and aqua. The lining consists of a garnet-hued cloth, in a nostalgic reference to the first-ever bags created by Gabrielle Chanel outlet. In addition to the standard shape, the bag comes in a “hobo” version in three formats: a backpack, a large shopper and a supple purse contained within a rigid half-case.
The bag’s versatility is highlighted in Lagerfeld’s campaign, for which he enlisted four of his most camera-friendly “muses”: actress Kristen Stewart, model Cara Delevingne, model, music producer and author Caroline de Maigret, and musician Pharrell Williams. The four-part campaign includes four films that were released in stages last month.
Delevingne emerges in animated form as “a young Parisian skater girl”, in a colourful short that was filmed by Japanese director Shishi Yamazaki and utilises the rotoscoping animation technique. Williams is seen having fun in an empty concert hall, while de Maigret explores a Haussmannian apartment in a black-and-white film by Olivier Assayas. The single-sequence shot sees de Maigret making her way through the apartment, until she comes across a diary marked with the words Gabrielle Chanel, in the couturier’s own hand. “The film is a poetic wander,” explains de Maigret.