Classic couture

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 April, 2012, 12:00am


'For me,' Carine Roitfeld says, 'it's a very easy jacket to wear, almost like a denim jacket - but more chic. And the most beautiful things you don't see. They're inside and hidden: the silk, the details, the little chain and the cut. It's very subtle.'

The Chanel jacket, like Dior's bar jacket, has become a timeless fashion staple. You are just as likely to see it on the shoulders of a chic 60-year-old Parisian, with a string of pearls and Ferragamo loafers, as you are on a twenty-something 'it' girl at a hipster party in New York, paired with studded motorcycle boots.

'The jacket was an inspiration for [Coco] Chanel,' says Karl Lagerfeld of the item's origins. 'It came from a hotel uniform, with the braided trim and the four pockets - and she translated it into a piece of clothing for women, but initially it was designed for men, like many of her clothes.'

'The first Chanel jacket was in 1957, or something like that,' says Bruno Pavlovsky, president of Chanel, 'and Karl has been reinterpreting it all the time. We wanted the project to show that everyone can wear this jacket, or play with it. Men, women, young and old.'

'If women can wear Le Smoking [a reference to the Yves Saint Laurent coat for women inspired by a men's smoking jacket], then men can wear a Chanel jacket. It's the attitude that counts,' adds Lagerfeld.

In the book, Riccardo Tisci wears it with a hoodie while Kanye West and Alexander Wang take a grungy approach - contrast those with Sarah Jessica Parker's little bolero-style picture or the quirky punk sex appeal of model Alice Dellal.

Roitfeld points out that the jacket isn't overbearing - it's cool, relaxed and 'you can move with it'.

'You feel that it belongs to you immediately. It fits everyone,' she says.

And although this particular jacket did well commercially, it's no longer available; it has not been re-issued with the launch of the book, which Roitfeld considers 'very smart' and 'respectful'.

The March 22 debut of the book and exhibition came as part of a series of star-studded events organised by the French fashion house in the Japanese capital, one year after the Tohoku earthquake. 'We wanted to do something very positive in Japan, and the couture show is complementary to the exhibition,' says Pavlovsky.

'For us it was the right timing to be able to do something very special.'

The exhibition is scheduled to come to Hong Kong in the summer (date to be announced).