From Chanel Spring '10 collectionSo I’m looking at Chanel’s Spring 2010 collection, about which the correspondent for style.com reports:

[T]he Chanel country coquettes managed to flirt their way around every rustic reference in Karl Lagerfeld’s extensive repertoire of craft-y couture skills, from hopsack to basket weave and cane work to aprons, dirndls, peasant-y poppy prints, and fantastic wooden double-C clogs. It was a bumper harvest of everything that is chicly tattered, beribboned, and gloriously made about Chanel, as well as the season’s sole experience to make the anxiety and earnestness around fashion evaporate, to make it seem like fantastic fun again.

Mostly, though, they looked appallingly young, although I suspect this is de rigueur for the contemporary runway, which seems to demand an endless supply of twelve-year-olds of all ages.

If twelve seems awfully Nabokovian to you, you’re not alone:

What I found remarkable was how successful the collection was in merging the extreme frothiness of Lolita with signature Chanel textured bouclés. It really does add an unexpected youthfulness to otherwise conservative materials.

But no, this is not Humbert’s Lo. Not precisely, anyway:

Although “Lolita” is a reference to Vladimir Nabokov’s famous novel, and Lolita fashion is often worn by teens, most followers of the style do not consider it overtly sexual. Adherents present themselves as Victorian children or baby dolls and prefer to look “cute” rather than “sexy”. Many Lolitas claim that the term “Lolita” doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with sex at all.

And besides, this particular, um, school seems to have originated in Japan, where there’s a premium on looking like you’re nowhere near ready for Lastday in Logan’s Run.

Still, I admit I found the name a trifle offputting when I first heard it. I blame Clare Quilty.


  1. Kay Dennison »

    26 December 2009 · 6:57 pm

    One word: Yuck!!!! Haute couture used to be designed for grownups!

  2. canadienne »

    26 December 2009 · 8:15 pm


  3. Galligator »

    26 December 2009 · 8:34 pm

    Gothic & Lolita fashion plays to a different role & context in Japan than in the west do (particularly in regard to the word ‘Lolita’). It makes more sense when you look at how fashion in Japan is about carving a niche out of a very insular and homogeneous culture than about following a trend or dressing for a societal role. There is a huge cosplay & manga tie-in as well that is just not commonly found in the west. Super-hero girls are almost a cultural meme in Japan; one that does not have any ready western analog. So, I was pretty surprised to see Chanel pulling from the Gothic Lolita scene; I have always seen their (Chanel’s) customer base as a mix of young sophisticates & refined career women. Gothic & Lolita are too cute & innocent in superficial structure to seem like an easy fit for Chanel. I would have been much less surprised had these looks been presented on a Betsey Johnson runway. The fact that even a handful of these looks managed to succeed in feeling like Chanel designs was quite a feat considering how contrary the Gothic Lolita aesthetic would seem to be from that of core-Chanel style.

    I’m still a little in shock that of all the designers that have borrowed from fringe fashion, Chanel chose to mainstream Lolita. I’m even more suprised at how little commentary I have seen pointing this out for any kind of recognition or discussion. Most reviews I have encountered talked of “the Chanel country look”. ‘Scuse ’em? Must’ve been all that hay on stage that caused them to miss the whole Japanese fashion scene’s heavy influence on this one.

    But, I digress….Hopefully I haven’t rambled too much here.

  4. Galligator »

    26 December 2009 · 8:36 pm

    Admittedly, even the French may be a little leary of noting any connection to the Lolita aesthetic. Outside of the Gothic Lolita sub-culture, it still has powerful non-fashion connotations.

  5. CGHill »

    26 December 2009 · 10:03 pm

    And the Gothic variation on Lolita, at least, has enough of a 1980s-pop feel to it, I think, to offset the potential “Let’s get a rise out of the salarymen” effect of this look. At least they don’t look so much like they escaped from a manga.

    But to me, this is Karl Lagerfeld yelling, “Remember me?” If he has to simulate someone’s schoolgirl fantasy to move some couture, he will.

  6. Sheri »

    27 December 2009 · 5:00 pm

    I’m such a rube. I don’t even live in the “country,” but that chick in that black get-up with the little bag and the weird tights and the black HEELS? Posed in front of the — what is that? hay? — totally made me snicker.

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