From oat to haute, grocery shopping goes couture

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Grocery shopping is a normal errand and an important part of the spectacular mundane that fills up our days. The people found in a grocery store are rarely exciting: Overly tired mothers will wander into a market with their children in tow, picking up food for dinner; teenagers will come in and self-consciously purchase cheesy popcorn and Dr. Pepper; young businessmen will purchase microwavable meals and dash out of the store as quickly as possible. It is not a glamorous outing, but rather one usually done in sweatpants, workout clothes or a significantly rumpled outfit.

It appears that Karl Lagerfeld, the genius behind design house Chanel since the ‘80s, has other ideas about grocery stores. For Lagerfeld, a believer that “sweatpants are a sign of defeat,” an outing to the grocery store shouldn’t be an excuse to look sloppy. This he proved in his Fall/Winter 2014 collection presentation. Lagerfeld produced a full-size supermarket in Paris’ Grand Palais, in which aisles served as runways and shoppers were models clad in Chanel designs. Wall-to-wall stock of typical grocery items like cans of tuna, cereal and cheese filled shelves perused by models styled in furs, tweed and silk like it was any normal day. It was a marriage of the average and the fabulous, high and low; and it was in every way typical of Chanel. Lagerfeld is known to create a spectacle for every show and always strives to outdo himself, which is no easy feat when he has already used airplane hangars and Grand Central Station as venues.

However, Lagerfeld is always careful not to let the setting outdo the collection being shown. He uses models who are as beautiful as they are famous; this year’s crop included Cara Delevingne, Stella Tennant and Kendall Jenner. The clothes he draped on their gaunt frames was inventive and fascinating, sporty and feminine. Tweed, a Chanel standby for decades, is always a part of the collection, whereas lace and vinyl and a variety of knits made for new pairings. There were notes of haute couture inspiration throughout, with severe corsets and architectural, voluminous jackets. Footwear ranged from flat boots and loafers to athletic shoes that originally appeared in the Chanel Spring 2014 couture show.

The supermarket theme reemerged in details through every outfit. The colors of each garment were reminiscent of vegetable hues. Bright primary colors made punchy statements in imitation of the flashy packaging and signage usually found in grocery stores. Models carried their iconic quilted purses, sunglasses and other accessories in metal baskets accented with leather braiding. The entire presentation was eye-catching and turned the boring chore of grocery shopping into something whimsical.

Lagerfeld explained to Vogue Editor-at-Large Hamish Bowles and New York Times Fashion and Style writer Suzy Menkes that the collection was inspired by both the every day and the avant garde.

“The whole thing is related to Pop Art,” Lagerfeld said. “Why the supermarket? It is something of today’s life and even people who dress at Chanel go there – it’s a modern statement for expensive things.”

Lagerfeld understands his clientele to be the sort of elite people who shop Chanel’s thousand dollar items before shopping for food to stock their pantries. He managed to combine these two principles with his supermarket that included over 500 items, each emblazoned with the interlocking double Chanel C’s and marked up with price tags that read “Plus 30 percent.” The Chanel shopper isn’t looking for a deal – they are looking for quality, innovation and that illustrious label.

Chanel is never one to disappoint. In the rigorous fashion world where trends go in and out of style faster than a supermodel’s strut, a designer must constantly be willing to reinvent his or herself. There was a point in time where Coco Chanel, creator of the eponymous fashion house, pledged to never have a mini-skirt made with her name on it. By the late ‘80s, Coco was gone and Lagerfeld was in control; mini-skirts were all the rage and received the Chanel tweed treatment. They went over famously and are still sought out by Chanel collectors. To take something as pedestrian as grocery shopping and make it into an artistic display of propaganda and fashion is not only genius, but proof-positive that Lagerfeld is still at the top of his game and the best in the business.

Noel Hemphill is a junior ECLS major. She can be reached at hemphill@oxy.edu or on Twitter @WklyNHemphill.