Back-on-stage Chanel

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Chanel / Karl Lagerfeld

“Trust the visionary Mr. Lagerfeld to realize that while red-carpet dressing seems like a played-out trend, movies have become the hottest new fashion accessory — a way to bring emotion and visual excitement to branding for the YouTube generation.” (More)

When in 2000 Vogue initiated, it was the beginning of the digital age of fashion. Whilst fashion shows and the world of haute couture used to be only accessible for a small group of industry insiders, it now slowly started to open up for the bigger public. Since then, high fashion has been searching for a balance between exclusivity and a widening of the fanbase, by which the latter has reenforced the first. Through a visual opening up of the couture industry, brands became more well-known amongst also the ‘lower’ classes, creating a collective desire for its products that became even more exclusive because of the fact that just a very small percentage could actually afford them.

Whilst the visual opening-up of the high fashion industry in the beginning of the 2000s was about on-stage performances, recently it has gone further by showing backstage preparations, or rather, an ‘off-stage’ performance. Lagerfeld’s fashion film for Chanel Once and Forever is a perfect example of this: it’s basically a behind-the-scenes  (remember the ones you could find as “extras” on DVD’s?) of some imaginary movie about the romantic life of Coco Chanel. This should give the impression that we are seeing something more, something authentic, as we’re witnessing the processes that create the brand, the piece of clothing, or the film itself. It’s about showing how amazing they actually are, not appear to be.

This is important as its viewer, who is 24/7 bombarded by commercials and advertisements, a.k.a. us, has become increasingly media-savvy. We know it when (moving) images are trying to sell us something. In a capitalistic society that drives on profit, most things we get to see on a daily basis are meant for selling something in some way, whether it’s about clothing, accessories, a healthy lifestyle or a political opinion. And we don’t like that, because what capitalism promotes besides consumption, is individual freedom. We don’t want to be blindly sold something. We want to choose what to buy by ourselves, or at least, have the feeling to do so.

However, this idea of the ‘backstage’ has just become another stage with a different kind of performance, documentary-like, which in actuality has more in common with the mockumentary. In other words: we’re back on stage.

Kristen Stewart is an interesting muse, breaking through with her career thanks to the Twilight series, which has driven half of the world’s teens crazy. They are also the youngsters that have grown up in a digital environment, and that come across fashion films like those of Chanel, attracting them through miss Bella. Her rebellious attitude towards the paparazzi around the film – the one that is being shot at that very moment – represents that communal aversion towards full-on commerce and a longing for authenticity. On top of that, in this film Kristin literally is the embodiment of the young Coco Chanel, who is now presented as an edgy personality who is “just being honest with you.” Really?



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