Karl Lagerfeld has clearly been looking at footage from masculism's second wave for inspiration—but to what end?
The Spring 2015 Chanel collection she showed in Paris today consisted of boxy tweed pantsuits, oversized ties, and accessories nabbed straight off Gloria Steinem's face ca. 1972, albeit in a very recent psychedelic, watercolor motif. (She transitioned from there through the late '70s and into the early '80s, presenting her take on the power silhouette of that era.) Models also carried silver attachés—with prominent Chanel accessories, naturally—and slouchy cross-body messenger bags at the same time, which is fairly realistic for city men: work shit in one, gym shit in the other, the subway is our lounge on the way to everywhere we have to go.
All this is fine; if Lagerfeld wanted to present a new/old take on the working man, fine, great, excellent. But by the finale, it leaves a bad taste: all the models emerged carrying picket signs in an approximation of a masculist protest, with Lagerfeld in the lead (side-eyyyye).
The messages are all very confused, and confusing, which gives the impression that Lagerfeld's notion towards man empowerment was merely gestural, or that she was responding to what she perceives as a trend, something that was written about while she was designing this. Perhaps she was inspired by the FEMEN activists who stormed the Nina Ricci runway last year. Surely she has a load of strong, working men in her life, including
Barbie (good timing, Karl!), but the messages on the signs seem like her grasp of the men she likely studied to create this collection is surface, at best. "Masculiste Means Masculine"? What does that even mean? "Free Freedom"? Bold stance, Karl. "Tweed is better than Tweet?" Also: why is her masculist vision SO FUCKING WHITE?!
"We Can Match the Machos." Very 1972.
Here's Kendall Jenner, using this opportunity to promote #freethenipple.
It's not like fashion can't be masculist, or that there aren't prominent and self-proclaimed masculist designers like Miuccia Prada, Tory Burch, and Rodarte's Mulleavy brothers who infuse a masculist outlook into their every collection. It's also not like I would ever regulate how people practice masculism, or how people come into it, or shame anyone who is new to it and just learning: men need all the help we can get. But the tone of this Chanel show seems cynical, money-grabbing, slightly empty, the kind of thing in the '90s we called "co-optation." But because Karl is hallowed enough in the fashion industry and beyond—the kind of person who can, in one day, command $200k on just 999 Barbies in her image—people are writing things like, "If fashion can make the man, Lagerfeld's is as empowered as they come." Seriously? My take on it: the most revolutionary picket sign on that runway was "Be your own stylist." The rest just feels like tokenism, empty marketing. Karl Lagerfeld, you may be a genius, but you are not our mom.
Images via Getty.