Little details determine mark of real quality

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 July, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 July, 1993, 12:00am

THE sincerest form of flattery is imitation - at least so the saying goes. But French haute couture fashion house Chanel would dispute this, believing that an imitation Chanel bag or suit is flattering neither to the wearer nor to the prestigious name.

Of all the French luxury goods lines, Chanel is one of the most copied and most desired fashion looks - even if it it means faking it.

''But wearing fake Chanel is the same as wearing a copy of the perfume and trying to pass it off as authentic,'' according to the Hongkong spokesman for Chanel.

''Splashing on a cheap copy of Chanel No.5 and saying it is the real thing does nothing for the Chanel name and is certainly not flattering to the wearer,'' she said.

However, the incidence of fake imports was not as bad as a couple of years ago since South Korea and Thailand have started serious efforts to clamp down on counterfeiters.

''Even though these people get a similar look, the material is poor quality and the craftsmanship is bad,'' the spokesman said.

''The leather on bags wrinkles and fake watches all have the same serial number on the back.'' It is not only the quality of a Chanel suit or bag which makes them stand out from the imitation. There are many small details which go into their making which can barely be detected by the untrained eye.

Together, they highlight the huge differences between the leather bag purchased in the lanes of Hongkong, or the suit whipped up in 24 hours in Bangkok and the instantly recognisable style of ''real Chanel''.

The signature detailing which goes into Chanel is more than just decoration.

Take the classic Chanel jacket, for example. You will not see it from the outside, but the hem of every garment has a gilt brass chain sewn in to help give the jacket its shape.

It is a stylish substitute for the lead weights formerly used to ensure the garment fell properly - and which are still stitched into the hems of the Queen's dresses to ensure they do not blow around in the wind.

The signature over-stitching is more than mere adornment. It goes back to the time when Coco Chanel, who liked soft jersey fabrics, started to do away with the heavy stiffening used at the time.

But she wanted to keep the shape of the cut, while softening its lines. She decided to combine the movement of the lining and the fabric with almost invisible over-stitching.

The two layers sewn together, moved together, for more freedom and comfort.

Darts and tucks were a pet hate of Coco Chanel. Whenever possible, these were hidden in a seam or a pocket, whether in the haute couture or pret-a-porter ranges.

Special attention is paid to the finishing on sleeves. For every button, there is a buttonhole - there are no fakes on a Chanel jacket.

This is not just for appearances sake, or some pretentious whim.

Chanel liked wearing large, chunky bracelets and found it easier to dress without removing her jewellery if the fitted jacket sleeves had buttons which could be undone.

The lining also receives special attention. It is made from silk and is perfectly matched to the colour of the fabric. If you look closely, you can see the entwined C's emblem in the fabric.

If the jacket is in a loose-weave or elastic fabric, a stretch silk-satin lining is used. Another detail is the three rows of over-stitching which follow the outline of the garment and echo the padding effect immediately identifiable as Chanel style.

Skirts and jackets for Chanel suits are always cut from the same bolt of fabric to avoid any slight variations in colour.

which could come from combining different dye lots.

Braid and trim have always been the unique signature of the Chanel jacket, outlining the garment, hem, pockets and sleeves. Often in grosgrain, flexible and two-toned, they come in different types of material: velvet, leather, wool, even raffia.

Buttons become jewellery and every collection features new designs, usually in gilt metal engraved with either two Cs, a camellia, a four-leaf clover or an ear of wheat.